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Analytics Software

Paris: A way to identify criminals pre-crime needed?

Paul Stokes is COO of Wynyard Group, a market leader in risk management and crime fighting software. He looks at how protecting people from violent and serious crime requires an understanding of potential offenders and victims in an ever changing risk environment.

Creating a single view of a potential offender crucial to understanding who creates a risk

As circumstances leading to the horrific and deadly Sydney café siege and the tragic Paris massacre are reviewed, a number of systems and processes will come under scrutiny in an attempt to get answers. 

In Australia, questions are already being raised about why gunman, Man Haron Monis was granted bail while facing serious charges. There's also bewilderment as to why he wasn't on the terrorism watch list because he was a person who was known to police. 

Whilst the public might ask if enough is being done, the question to ask might be should they be doing it differently? 

There are several investigations underway seeking answers and as the clues are pieced together, questions about how to identify these people before they commit crime will be asked.

But regardless of the outcome, one should consider that the need for a solution designed to manage offenders and protect victims, and extends to all areas of crime and criminals, including child sex offenders, gangs, terrorists or serious crime, is now greater than ever.

Closing the gap with a single view of a potential offender

Most traditional law enforcement systems are based on responding to events and then investigating them. This is a reactive approach designed to prosecute offenders and stop them committing any more crimes.

These traditional systems are agency centric, event driven and they are not designed to provide a single view of a person or population of interest or control the criminal environment.

Gaining an understanding of a potential offender is challenging, particularly in an ever-changing risk environment. It is however crucial in identifying a threat and managing it to stop offenders, protect victims, and prevent serious crime. Targeted offender management and information-sharing between relevant agencies helps to better protect victims and minimise the likelihood and harm from re-offending.

Unfortunately early identification and ongoing risk management is often compromised by traditional agency-centric, stove-piped and reactive systems that fail to provide a dynamic, current, single view of a person of interest or highlight the escalating risk of an offence occurring.

By enabling agencies to exchange and assess critical risk information about a targeted person of interest whilst protecting identities and privacy, they will be able to build a more comprehensive picture of a person of interest to coordinate efforts, dynamically assess risk and respond immediately to alerts. More importantly they will quickly eliminate persons not of interest and deploy the resources to achieve the best outcome.

Harnessing and making sense of all of the information that creates a single view of a potential offender is the work of intelligence analysts, investigators and advanced crime analytics, technology that is playing an increasingly influential role in preventing crime. Advanced crime analytics gives agencies the ability to identify trends, patterns and anomalies that would have otherwise gone undetected, draw conclusions more quickly, act proactively rather than reactively, and catch potential problems before they become disastrous. Importantly, a machine does the heavy lifting across data and different agencies allowing officers to interpret the data, make informed decisions, and act.

Legislation with controls and privacy protection

For this to work, agencies must have access to the information they need to be effective. But, gathering and sharing this information must be balanced with protecting people’s privacy and civil rights. Governments need to take steps to ensure an informed and balanced argument around protecting privacy which I think most people would recognise as important. This is a topic being widely debated in most western countries today.

In the case of Monis, questions are being asked regarding why he was not on a watch list. But would having the legal right to conduct surveillance, phone tapping, or metadata checks have made a difference in this case? Having a current and single view of a potential offender helps and the ability to surface events and incidents from that data along with behavioural change is important.

Certainly, by having the ability to rapidly analyse all information available including existing evidence and open source data from websites, news feeds, chat rooms, blogs, and social media it can help agencies efficiently and proactively manage thousands of persons of interest by priority.

A multi-pronged approach is needed to bridge the gap

Unfortunately, tragic terrorist-related events are a reminder of the real world challenges facing governments, intelligence and law enforcement agencies and highlights the ongoing need for more accurate and agile intelligence solutions.

It has further highlighted how important it is that those who keep us safe understand who poses a risk and who is at risk. How else do they do their job?

Key to the effort is not only robust legislation and intelligent technology, but also the adoption of a mind-set of awareness and a commitment to action concerning the protection of potential victims with a holistic approach that enables the detection of relationships and hidden links between seemingly unrelated people, events and victims.

The technology already exists to create a “single view”; cases like this only highlight the need to take a new approach to bridge the resource gap in an ever changing risk environment. We need to do this now with appropriate controls that protect privacy and at the same time minimise the likelihood of harm.

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