Picture a scenario where police and probation officers are alerted in real-time to the fact that an antagonist of domestic violence has encroached the limits of their restraining order. That a banned driver is speeding down a motorway, actually driving the car. That a known drug dealer is loitering in the same spot every day where drug-use paraphernalia is often found. That an offender with a history of burglaries is known to have been in the vicinity of a break-in during the hours that it was believed to have taken place.
Now imagine that this is possible today. This is not a prescient fantasy . This is the next generation offender tracking, powered by the Microsoft Internet of Things. And it is here.
Real-time interventions, preventative actions and retrospective provision of evidence are just some of the ways in which the next generation of offender tracking technology is allowing for real transformation around offender rehabilitation and public safety.
Since the advent of electronic offender management (EOM) in the 1980s, relatively little has changed in terms of the technology that police forces and rehabilitators use to monitor individuals upon their supervised release from prison.
However, the pace of advancement in the field of available and suitable technology has opened up a wide range of possibilities. Furthermore, with the government recently announcing that it is backing a number of police forces areas to pilot the satellite tracking of offenders using GPS tagging, this is an area primed and ready for digital transformation.
Shaping the next generation of offender tracking
Last month, Microsoft brought together two technology partners leading the field of EOM – MITASS, who focus on wearable tracking devices, and Minttulip, who specialise in the creation of apps and action surfaces that bring data insights to life. Joining them were representatives from the Home Office, MOJ, and a number of different police forces and rehabilitation organisations.
The purpose of the day was to update attendees on the currently (and soon to be) available technology, and to facilitate discussions around how through working with police forces and correctional institutions, the next generation of offender tracking can be shaped and delivered.
Providing background and research statistics on previous work around EOM and the impact this has had on recidivism and crime rates was Chris Miller, former lead for electronic monitoring with the Association of Chief Police Officers. Some of the most compelling insights he offered were around the number of crimes an offender will commit before they are eventually caught . On average, a criminal will have perpetrated between five and 10 crimes before they are apprehended and convicted.
With GPS tracking enabling a solution that offers certainty and speed of detection, this is just one area where public safety and the efficacy of law enforcement can improve by stopping sprees from occurring, and behavioural correction and rehabilitation can become more successful.
Another significant figure he shared was around the comparative costs of imprisonment versus monitored release. The average cost of custody per year across all offenders is estimated to be around £36,000. However, when using EOM to monitor an offender on release, this cost comes down to between £3,000-£6,000 per annum.
Delving into the more technical material, John Bryan from MITASS explored the current capabilities of GPS tagging devices, as well as looking forward to what is looming closely on the horizon. Microsoft’s Simon Francis then shed some light on the latest innovations around the Internet of Things, providing real-life examples of how other industries are identifying collectible data, and using that data to drive decisions that are improving business outcomes and efficiencies.
Bringing things back into the context of the day, a live demo of Minttulip’s Offender Tracking Dashboard gave an example of just how easy it is to set parameters and alerts – in this case a GeoFence – with Robert Mossop showing how bringing devices together with the Microsoft platform to make an intelligent fit, and creating the right interface to get things done, is well within the grasp of anyone involved with electronic offender management.
Key takeaways of the day
Following the presentations, the floor was opened up for questions and discussion. With a number of different organisations and functions represented, the specific requirements and questions were quite varied. However, two key themes stood out:
Modernisation: There was a clear enthusiasm for change among those who joined us on the day. Those responsible for integrated offender management can see their approach to electronic tagging being transformed by the Internet of Things and the subsequent use of the different types of data it can yield:
“Looking at various methods of offender management, it’s clear there are more innovative ways of early intervention to prevent re-offending.”
Interoperability and versatility: Owing to the broad spectrum of offenders and the varying severity of their previous convictions, flexibility of data use is essential. The restrictions and alert criteria will therefore need to be calibrated for different individuals and categories of supervision, meaning that the malleability of the system chosen to process and present the data is key in allowing any necessary interventions to be made appropriately and in a timely manner, based on contextual information.
What the platform provided by the Microsoft Internet of Things and offerings from our technology partners provides offender managers and rehabilitators with, is an open canvas to catalyse their transformation in this area of public service, and empowers them to reinvent their own operational possibilities:
“[we’d like to explore] …proximity based alert systems for use in stalking cases – keeping the victim safe by allowing them to know when their stalker is nearby… a notification to the victim to immediately safeguard themselves, and to police if [a monitored individual is] breaking a restraining order.”
The emphasis placed on different datasets – both from the tracked individual and from other sources – being interoperable was at the forefront of most minds, with another attendee describing the live demo by Minttulip as showing “more agile ways of working”.
Start your organisation’s transformation
Police forces and offender rehabilitation organisations are encouraged to begin working on their own Proof of Concept with Minttulip, in order to establish the appropriate collection, use and presentation of available data to fit their own purposes. To find out more and to start planning your next steps, please email Lisa Meeds at Minttulip, or telephone 01494 618 567.
If you’d like to learn more about what was covered on the day, click here to download the presentation slides: