POLICE in North Yorkshire are introducing digital crimefighting kits, which allow them to view incidents on real-time maps, log evidence within moments of arriving at a crime scene and cut time-consuming trips to the station for form-filling.

Officers and PCSOs are being issued with tablets and smartphones with software which the force believes will save each offers several hours a week in trips back to the station for admin, freeing up more time on the beat and providing a vast array of information at their fingertips.

North Yorkshire Police’s Operational Mobile Working (OMW) project will allow officers to complete paper work when they’re not in the office, such as while waiting at court to give evidence or between meetings. For a police force covering a largely rural area covering more than 3,000 square miles, this is set to make an enormous difference.

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At a launch held at Knaresborough police station on Tuesday, Superintendent Mike Walker said: “It’s really important to develop a system which cuts down on the amount of time spent behind a desk and cuts down on administration time.

“As you can imagine there’s elements of policing which are quite bureaucratic, and the aim of this technology is to cut down on that process.”

But Supt Walker said one of the most important features of the system is it allows frontline officers to gather and build evidence at the scene of a crime, including photos, videos and other documents and upload it to the police systems immediately. From there, investigative officers can look at photographs straight away, rather than wait for a police officer to return to the station to describe the scene and show them evidence.

Sgt Neil Soulby, who worked in software testing prior to joining the police, said: “We can have officers from around the county taking statements as digital evidence and at the same time investigators back at the station can pick it up instantly.”

Using handheld devices will also help improve evidence-gathering in crimes such as domestic abuse.

Red handprints on a victim’s body can disappear quite quickly, but can now be photographed instantly and provide irrefutable evidence if a perpetrator denies putting their hands around the victim’s neck or other abuse.

The technology started being rolled out to officers and PCSOs in September and will continue until the end of May.

PC Adam Smith, based at Harrogate, said he could already see how it will help secure convictions at court.

“I recently attended quite a nasty domestic incident. The most appropriate thing for me to do was a scene walk through the house which showed disturbance, the blood on the walls,” he said.

“I walked through the house with a tablet and recorded impactive evidence like that.”

At the scene of a crime, police can also instantly call up the force’s log of incidents reported to them, access national crime databases and information on the STORM system used by the force control room, which ensures frontline officers have the information they need when responding to emergency calls.

When searching for named people, they will appear on the system with red warning markers if they have a history of carrying weapons or assaulting officers.

Another feature of the system allows officers and PCSOs to click on a live map of all incidents and the location of their nearest colleagues for safety.

In the future, potentially, police could use bio-metric data such as facial recognition, fingerprints or hand geometry and use them to bring up information from national crime databases, immigration records and other background information. The technology is already there, but ethical and legal considerations come into play. Whether society wants that level of surveillance and personal data permanently held by the state would need public debate and, in many cases, a change in current UK legislation.

Robert Hancock, from Black Marble, the Bradford-based company that designed the software, called tuServ, with police, said handling and storing personal data such as fingerprints had to be done within national guidelines.

“With things like facial recognition; the technology is already there, but it’s understanding how that technology can be used in a policing space, because there’s legislation around handling that data. We’re mindful of that when we’re working with forces,” he said.

“We can understand how far technology can go and they understand how it fits in with what they’re doing.”