Essex Police plan for data analytics centre

Director says resource would support sharing data, academic research and data science for insights

Essex Police is aiming to set up a centre for data analytics to support efforts towards more preventative action against crime in the county.

Police vehicle lightDr Vicki Harrington, director of strategic change and performance for the force, outlined the plan at yesterday’s City Data Analytics conference staged by innovation charity Nesta.

She said the centre would be slightly different to the model used for an office of data analytics – the cause of which is championed by Nesta – in working at three levels. One would be a resource for organisations to contribute and share data, for which the police will be able to use the existing data sharing platform created by Essex County Council.

The second, which distinguishes it from the ‘office’ model, is a platform for research by academic bodies, which could be commissioned by the organisations providing data.

The third is the data science hub, which would provide insights that would not be possible if the users were only using their own data. She said this would be particularly important for the police force as it could be used to validate preventative action.

Prevention factor

“We’re pretty good in the police at collecting data, number crunching, but less good at getting insights, certainly around prediction and prevention,” Harrington said.

“A core role of the police is prevention of crime but we need to use our data differently to do that, and we’re certainly early on in terms of sharing data with partners. Some of it is going on but not across the county and there is room for improvement.

“It’s like a jigsaw, we all hold different pieces but the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and if we can’t bring them together we can’t make best use of the data we collect informing decisions and getting actionable insights.”

Harrington said that Essex Police has made a bid with the support of Nesta for money from the Police Transformation Fund to support the initiative, and that while it is “early days” it already has backing of the county council and two unitary authorities.

The first meeting of the advisory board is due to take place soon and the first project is likely to cover modern slavery.

Image: Matty Ring, CC BY 2.0 through flickr