Essex Police to spend £2m providing frontline officers with new smartphones featuring specialist apps to tackle crime

Frontline police officers in Essex will be issued new smartphones with specialist “apps” next month to help them fight crime.

The £2million investment will allow uniformed officers to devote more time to vital policing tasks while out on patrol rather than returning to base.

Currently, Essex police officers travel an estimated 784,070 miles a year returning to stations to file reports, and spend an average of 16,802 hours dictating information over the phone. The annual cost of those activities has been calculated at £672,000.

The new phones will mean officers can file reports while on patrol, without having to make a call. They will also be able to use mobile apps to access CCTV, review missing person investigations and take pictures of suspects and crime scenes to share with colleagues.

The phones can also share briefings or run people and vehicle checks on the Police National Computer, cutting down on time spent on their radios.

It is estimated the phones will save each officer up to one hour per shift, which will instead be spent investigating and preventing crime, supporting victims and catching criminals.

Essex Police’s Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: “This is a big investment and it’s keeping our frontline on the frontline where they need to be while ensuring the admin work that lies behind policing gets done.

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“I know right across our county people want us to be more visible and maximising the time my officers are out and about rather than ploughing through admin in an office, we can truly give them more time to fight crime.

“Even though it’s early days we’ve seen how the CCTV app has helped us find missing people and locate criminals more quickly. Technology is changing the way we keep the county safe and we are working to make our smartphones even smarter.”

Roger Hirst, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, added: “Many people have told me that they want more visible, local, accessible policing and this is one of the priorities in the new Police and Crime Plan for Essex.

“The early feedback I have had from police officers about the new devices has been very positive, and they have told me that the smartphones have helped them spend more time out and about policing in the community.”

Following a pilot – which saw police officers trialling the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and a tablet – officers chose the phone as their preferred device.

The pilot was evaluated by academics from the University of Essex Business School and their findings were presented back to Essex Police ahead of the final device being chosen.

Essex police say the phones have already helped with investigations.

CASE STUDY 1 – Missing Person Brentwood/Chelmsford

Essex Police was contacted in September this year following reports that a 12-year-old girl had gone missing from the Brentwood area. A search for the girl got underway with officers making various enquiries with her family and friends. Officers were later contacted by the girl’s mother who believed her daughter may be in the Chelmsford city centre area. Using the Milestone CCTV app on their smartphones, officers were able to quickly log into the Chelmsford City Council CCTV system, spot the girl, locate her and bring her home to safety.

CASE STUDY 2 – Human Remains, Thurrock

Essex Police were called to a property in Thurrock in September this year following reports that a skeleton had been found in the garden shed of a property. It was thought that the bones may have been real human bones which belonged to a former occupier of the house who was a GP. (In the 1930s GPs commonly used real human bones for training, as opposed to the plastic models currently used.) Officers were able to use their smartphones to photograph the bones in situ and send them to experts at Dundee University. Within ten minutes specialist academics confirmed the bones were human and were used for training purposes which meant officers were able to deal with the incident then and there without having to return to the police station to carry out lengthy enquiries. Officers also did not need to establish a crime scene which would have tied up further resources.

CASE STUDY 3 – Image circulation of armed robbery suspect, Thurrock

Essex Police were contacted earlier this month following reports of an armed robbery on a supermarket in Thurrock. Initially officers only had a very basic description of the perpetrators to assist in the search. When officers arrived at the scene they were able to screenshot the CCTV, using their mobiles, and email images of the suspects to their colleagues out on patrol in the immediate area so they could assist in the search.

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