Last Friday morning felt like the week-end had already begun. It was an early day at work, but different from the usual lab days.
Silke Jensen, Alex Smyth, and I (from INTREPID forensics) as well as forensic pathologist Nitikorn Poriswanish, enjoyed the company of about a hundred individuals devoting their lives to a safer world. The East Midlands Policing Academic Collaboration (EMPAC) brought Police/Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and academic professionals around the same table to discuss Evidence Based Policing (EBP). Sgt Mark Brennan was key to organising Leicester’s EBP by assembling inspiring speakers that proved the possibility of thoroughly researched policing decisions. In the introduction, Dr. Matt Ashby has set the tone and linked EBP to “what works” against crime, rather than to the leader’s confident opinions or the “how we’ve always done it” approach.
The first session I attended, ‘How far do missing people travel when they go missing’, was presented by Dr. Susan Giles and Mrs. Lauren Walter from Liverpool University. Together with a mathematician and two computer scientists, Susan and Lauren have designed CASPER: a missing persons’ locator tool. The concept is inspired by the distance decay theory claiming the offenders’ tendency to travel short distances before committing their crime. CASPER provides leads around the whereabouts of a person based on previously recorded movement patterns of the same individual, or of individuals falling in the same category (e.g. demented, suicidal, etc.).
Violence, unfortunately, is not restricted to faraway situations and is sometimes perpetrated by the persons we consider closest. My second session was presented by Dr. Jesse Matheson who evaluated the performance of a domestic violence’s early intervention initiative. Dr. Matheson demonstrated the benefits of contacting the victims via Project 360: a support system embedded within the police force. In his presentation, the city of Leicester had the highest frequency of domestic violence when compared to other surrounding residence areas. I tried to quantify this crime geo-locally on police.uk (crime map shown below), but was only able to select “violent and/or sexual offences” (not only domestic). The North-West area of the city of Leicester counts 417 reports of such events, almost half of the total number within the selected area.
Later in the day, I discovered that there is a crime called modern slavery. Human trafficking, forceful labour, commercial sexual exploitation, organ harvesting and domestic servitude fall under this category. PC Amy Rutland discussed her investigation results into the extent of modern slavery in Leicestershire. Around 200 individuals were identified as victims of modern slavery in the East Midlands. Amy’s report considers ways in which police and NGOs can efficiently communicate to better fight this crime. In fact, many of the victims are disinclined to contact police because of their illegal situation (e.g. illegal immigration status) as well as being enslaved. NGOs like Hope for Justice and the Red Cross are already on the ground to provide emergency needs. They also reach out to the community at large aiming to increase general awareness and support capacity.
Prof. Lawrence Sherman from Cambridge University was introduced as the father of EBP before speaking at the event. In 2013, he published a 75 pages’ essay entitled Rise of Evidence-Based Policing. I will dedicate my next post to discuss his article and relate it to a recent security decision that, understandably, might have been taken in the shade: the ban to carry-on electronic devices (larger than smartphones) on flights departing from specific airports.
Would such a measure work against the most perverted minds?
In conclusion, Leicestershire’s Chief Constable Simon Cole stressed the importance of academic research within the police and concluded with an essential question : “When the time comes for our uniforms to be passed on to the next generation, do we want these uniforms to be in a better place?