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Using AI to break down data silos and empower law enforcement

Police officer in a patrol car working on a computer

Sometimes, you can’t see what’s right in front of you. This is doubly true if what’s in front of you is terabytes of data; the hundreds of thousands of text messages, images, videos, and phone records that constitute just a fraction of the evidence in a criminal investigation. Law enforcement agencies the world over are faced with this exact scenario—enormous amounts of data isolated in siloed systems. Sorting through information in search of relevant insights, the type of leads that could crack a case is often a tedious, manual process. That’s where AI solutions based in Microsoft Azure can help.

In Australia, pilots are already underway. Using an Azure-based platform, the Western Australia Police Force (WAPF) is having amazing success analyzing the enormous amounts of data that accompany police investigations, surfacing relationships, insights, and patterns to reveal information hidden in plain sight. By sorting through a vast amount of legally seized evidence, the solution is transforming a process that was formerly time consuming and expensive. It can take investigators months to surface insights manually—not surprising given the volume of data and finite resources on hand. By contrast, the AI-powered solution can present reports in just a few hours. It’s a simple, streamlined solution to dealing with the overwhelming amount of digital evidence that has become a constant challenge to law enforcement agencies across the globe.

Translation tools from Azure Cognitive Services provide a powerful example of the kind of time savings that’s possible when AI meets the world of public safety. Combing through text messages, emails, and other digital records for relevant information is time-consuming enough when those records are in a language that investigators are familiar with; when those records are in an unfamiliar language, it adds another layer of complexity and expense to the process. Often, lengthy translation services are required, sometimes taking up to 12 months—something a data and AI platform like the one piloted by WAPF can accomplish in minutes. The platform can ingest and process terabytes or indeed petabytes of data, eliminating significant costs and shaving months off an investigation. That’s a game-changer for law enforcement.

Sorting through backlogs of evidence is one thing, but what about making connections between siloed systems? That’s another perennial problem in law enforcement. AI could hold the key to breaking down data silos and shedding light on relevant insights that can get caught in the cross-departmental net. When you factor in the number of digital services and line-of-business applications that are standard to most law enforcement agencies—computer-aided dispatch, records management, and police body-worn cameras—and add the tendency for separate divisions to act in isolation, a lot of potential insights aren’t being shared. Surfacing evidence by bringing these separate data sources and systems together using solutions, such as the aforementioned solution built on the Azure platform, has the potential to make connections between departments and to surface previously unknown relationships and insights. A single phone number, for instance, could be the key to connecting people of interest across divisions, agencies, and even jurisdictions.

By breaking down data silos, maximizing the amount of information available to investigators, and minimizing the time it takes to analyze that information, AI has the ability to fundamentally shift the focus and substantially increase the efficiency of police investigations. AI solutions based in Azure provide exceptional productivity savings, in some cases up to 90 percent, and the nature of these services means they are being constantly enhanced, providing insights that no human could surface in an equivalent time frame. Using AI to help solve crimes faster, with the goal of keeping citizens safer, is the next step in the world of public safety.

To learn more about intelligent solutions designed with public safety in mind, listen to the GovPod episode: Data and AI: Transforming Public Safety, available online or through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Or, download the e-book on the same topic.