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Plans mooted to allow online reporting of crimes

Plans mooted to allow online reporting of crimes

Exploratory talks are under way that could culminate in members of the public being able to report crimes online, Holyrood can reveal.

The final milestone in delivery of a single national integrated IT solution for Police Scotland was achieved this month, with an eight-month testing phase now set to begin. 

i6 will replace 135 different operational systems inherited from legacy-force arrangements with national rollout scheduled to run for a year from next September. 

Earlier this year, Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House admitted that keeping victims of crime informed on the outcome of incidents reported remains the single police service’s “Achilles heel”.

Chief Superintendent and i6 programme manager, Alec Hippman, said: “Where we would also want to take this would be creating an online i6 citizen portal where the public can access information, track progress in relation to investigations if they’re victims or witnesses in crimes, but also the direct online reporting of information to Police Scotland. 

“So, for example, if somebody wanted to report a minor crime, a road accident or lost property, we should explore the potential for providing digital.”

This feature is not in the current scope for the first release of i6, though Hippman has held early discussions with criminal justice partners to look at “achievable and affordable options”.   

“Through the exchange of electronic court documents with criminal justice partners, exploring mobile data in the community and the potential around citizen online access, the i6 programme aims to bring key elements of the justice digital strategy into deliverable action,” added Hippman.

“We’ve got a dedicated i6 criminal justice strategic partnership group always looking for opportunities to make justice processes leaner, more effective and swifter for everyone. We’ve done [so] with e-warrants. 

“Another more recent piece was exploring how we can better exchange information with the Scottish Prison Service to again reduce the burden on both organisations of constant re-keying of information and other things.”

Plans for a single integrated solution for the recording, management and investigation of road accidents have also been fast-tracked as part of efforts to reduce the number of casualties and fatalities on Scotland’s roads.

In June, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland warned relying on legacy systems is “constraining the ability of officers to function fully at a regional or national level”. 

“We have already commenced with Accenture the design of that element of i6,” Hippman told Connect. “This will in the future give us better and quicker access to data, for example, times, locations, road and weather conditions of accidents to help us analyse patterns around accidents that will enable us to take appropriate prevention and enforcement activities and positively influence driver behaviour. 

“Importantly, the officers will be able to reuse the data because frequently the outcome of accidents that we attend also ends up with us having to repopulate other silo IT and paper systems, for example, fixed-penalty reports and cases to the procurator fiscal. The officers will have all that in one fully integrated application as opposed to it being a separate silo system.”

Fourth-fifths of core policing activity will be covered under i6, including recording of crime as well as operational-related activity such as stop and search, care and welfare of individuals in police custody, and missing persons’ enquiries.

Though the project – to be fully implemented three-and-a-half years after the launch of Police Scotland – had previously been delayed nine months because of negotiations in the early stages with contractor Accenture, no additional costs for delivery of i6 will fall on the single force, beyond the £40m fixed-price as per original contract.  

“What we’re delivering through i6 is a strategic solution for Police Scotland over 10 years,” said Hippman. “There is no quick, cheap and cheerful option for that. Delivering short-term, tactical, patched-up solutions may well have taken us the same length of time, not necessarily have cost less in the long term and would have potentially undermined, not underpinned, the needs of Police Scotland as a national force. 

“This has taken some time because it is a large complex piece of work that we need to get right. You can’t magic up a new strategic national policing solution designed specifically for Police Scotland overnight.” 

Read the most recent article written by Alan Robertson - Time for Michael Matheson to live up to his motto of ‘smart on crime’

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