The internet has handed tech-savvy global criminals the perfect platform – but forward-thinking IT firms such as CGI are helping police apply the same advances to help in the fightback

We have grown up in a cinematic world where villains harness space-age technology for evil schemes and heroes can 
often only respond with a raised eyebrow, a quip and perhaps a flame-thrower pen.

In the real world, however, the good guys are fighting technology with technology, but realising that the future of policing and justice lies not only in better technology but better thinking – linking up the chain of events that occur in crime.

Unfortunately, global crime has the perfect tool directly at its fingertips, but as Nick Dale, who is Vice President of Business Transformation for the UK Justice Sector at CGI, explains, the anonymity of the internet is under attack.

HeraldScotland:

Dale has been with CGI since 2006, and concentrates on how to deliver the best end-to-end service for those in pursuit of the criminal and the victims of crime.  

“What we’re looking to do is to join the dots and turn the tables,” he says. “Working with our colleagues in policing, international policing, the Crown Prosecution Service in England, and the Ministry of Justice, we look to play them at their own game.”

That 52% of UK crime is internet-based is threatening for a number of reasons, not least the volume, but having no boundaries mean traditional collaring of the criminal is unlikely.

“The thinking on cyber crime is changing. We are looking at how to prevent these crimes happening. If you follow the money, then you can seize the assets. You then take the money and reinvest into technology, becoming better at preventing the crime than the criminals are at committing it.”

CGI has been involved in transforming the policing and criminal justice around the world for 40 years.

Following the Bichard Inquiry into the murder of two schoolgirls in Soham in 2002, CGI designed, built, and operate the Police National Database, which serves all UK police forces.

CGI is also currently working with North Wales Police on a 10-year long contract to transform how the force operates. It supports systems for the HM Courts & Tribunals Service that manages more than 10,000 new cases every day. 

The company has also worked in partnership with HMCTS to develop the online Reply to Jury Summons service, which allows more than 300,000 citizens in England and Wales to return their summons reply digitally.

Internationally it works with Five Eyes (or FVEY) to develop an international data sharing capability  between the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US.

In the Netherlands, it designed Burgernet, an app which allows citizens to be notified when a crime happens in their area and to report suspicious activity.

All of this work is the combination of thinking ahead on the future of policing and cutting-edge technologies. “This is why we want to attract as many talented people to CGI as we can,” adds Dale. 
The face of Future Policing is far from a Robocop nightmare but what it can do is allow police to do the job they signed up for, as Justene Ewing, Vice President Consulting Services explains. 

HeraldScotland:

She comes to CGI from a strong public sector background and sees how technology is an enabler rather than an invader.

“If you think about the police officer on the beat for example. The evolution of Smart Cities is another step forward in how we not only keep them safe and provide instant support, but how we allow them to do the job they signed up for,” says Ewing.

“The smart city could allow a police officer to capture notes live at a crime scene digitally, instead of using a pencil and a pad then heading back to a station and copying them into a system –maybe even multiple systems. That’s what technology can achieve. It’s not a threat, it’s not Big Brother, it’s providing officers with incredible tools that will allow them to do their job.”

CGI has more than 1300 IT professionals supporting the UK justice system. 

The work with North Wales Police is “absolutely transformative,” according to Ewing. “I also don’t think it’s ultimately that different from the work that Scotland as a police force would like to achieve.”

No hiding behind IP encryption

AT the moment it can feel a little bit like the criminals are the speedboat and the public, www.gov.uk, and other organisations are the oil tanker in terms of the speed and manner in which we can change legislation and policy.

Nick Dale contemplates how the police and judiciary can try to stay a step ahead of the criminal, and explains how CGI can help them to think ahead. He says: “When you think that a procurement can take up to two years, that is more than enough time for the technology in the original requirement to be out of date.” He provides the example of IP addresses. 

Technology can allow an individual to disguise and hide their IP address, using different servers and computers across the globe to mask where and who they are – something that is a massive help to cyber criminals across the globe. 

“If we are asked to look at these, however, we need to respond by saying IP addresses could be irrelevant in three years’ time,” says Dale.

“Another example is making use of distributed ledger technology, the technology developed from blockchain, which allows databases to be distributed. So instead of having one database, there are many databases being updated simultaneously. 

“We looked at that in criminal justice, to make sure the victims were updated on court cases at the same time as the courts were, rather than having to wait two days for the authorities to come back to them.”

The idea of joining the dots to ensure than every link in the chain of crime is covered is at the heart of CGI’s development work, but the partnership it has developed with the police and justice departments has led to some clever thinking about the prevention of future crime and the waste of lives to crime.

“We work very closely with UK policing – sometimes the police will take the lead and sometimes we will, but having that partnership means that we can bring our collective knowledge together and come up with some really interesting solutions.”

Through working with the Ministry of Justice, Dale feels extremely passionate about a project that could, as he puts it “stop people making the stupid decisions that will affect them in their later lives”.

He adds: “This would be good for greater society, obviously, and also for the country’s economy, as the cost of rehabilitation when it comes to offenders amounts to the UK putting on an Olympics every single year. 

“That doesn’t include the social upheaval and the impact on families.”

Dale says that being proactive and channelling some of that money intelligently into stopping people making the wrong decisions in the first place could not only save society money, but also generate income because they are more productive.

“These are areas I think we could lend our skills to, but we would need to partner with think tanks and other organisations. 

“There is a way of using the experience we have amassed in this area for over 40 years to come up with excellent ideas for the greater good.”