December 20, 2021. News

Thames Valley mobile app is “game changer in tackling street crime”

Members of the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit’s Data & Targeting work stream team presented their innovative new Hotspots Policing application at a national knowledge-sharing event to colleagues from across government departments, from the other VRUs and police forces, leading academics and data scientists.

The  new application, described by one attendee as a potential “game-changer” in addressing street crime and violence, directs officers and staff into priority areas and is being used to deliver a force-wide randomised control trial that will help us understand how high visibility patrolling can disrupt criminal activity, reduce serious violence and knife crime.

The application pushes information to officers via their mobile phone, providing up-to-date taskings to patrol specific hotspot locations, operational briefings and intelligence. The interface allows the office to record their activity without the need for paper files or returning to the police station. It also contains a GPS tracking function to measure the time spent patrolling in specific locations.

The systems provide superior analysis of the drivers behind crime, where it is occurring, who is involved, when it takes place and can inform policing response to be efficient and effective. The data from the app is used to evaluate the impact on crime the patrolling activities are having.  There is potential to take this approach and roll it out across the force, looking at a range of other crime types not only those associated with serious violence.

In addition to the hotspots application, Thames Valley VRU’s Serious Violence Dashboard continues to be used by hundreds of officers and staff in the force each day.  It brings together police system information on individual suspects, offenders and victims, crime events, geographic locations and analysis over time.  

The dashboard is used to inform policing operations, and in particular has played a vital role in delivering the Home Office funded “Hotspot Policing” activity – additional, proactive policing undertaken in very specific hotspot locations where serious violence or associated crime is identified.  Known as the Grip Fund, Thames Valley received over £850,000 to deliver these operations over the course of the financial year.

These systems are both elements of a far wider programme to develop a world-first platform which integrates the data from multi-agency sources, allows for powerful analysis and easy-to-use visualisations for practitioners to use to inform their work.

This solution is called Thames Valley Together, as at its very core is the ability to cross organisational boundaries – to bring into one place the many different data and information sets held by the VRU partners. This is done to provide a single, rich picture, which allows all the partners to work together on the information this provides.

This includes information from the many systems used by Thames Valley Police, Children’s Services and Social Services information from the local authorities across the region, data from the HM Prisons and Probation Service, information from NHS partners.  It is not just the statutory bodies, there is potential to draw in other data – such as publically generated information from apps such as StreetSafe, or information provided by the voluntary and community sector. 

No other force area has such an advanced system or approach – not just in the way data and technology is used for targeting street crime policing, but the wider cross-partnership information sharing. Data can be aggregated at the population level to provide detailed understanding of risk factors and population need in particular areas, helping to inform service planning and future commissioning. But with robust data-sharing and protections in place, sharing individual, person-level data allows for innovative approaches to identifying where agencies may have an opportunity to provide additional support, to take safeguarding action, or to target interventions to prevent harm or crime.

Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit is continuing to develop these systems for the benefit of the Thames Valley partners, but is also working closely with the Home Office and wider national colleagues across the police service to explore how this world-beating approach to data and information sharing can be scaled-up and shared with others.

Screenshots from the mobile application