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Real-life ‘Robocops’ to fight crime in less than a decade


Cryptocurrency and Metaverse-related crimes that would have been “hard to imagine 20 years ago” have left forces struggling to keep up, police chiefs admit.

Chief constables are about to publish a seven-year strategy on how the police service can evolve to tackle them by 2030.

The revelations can be found in a submission by the National Police Chiefs’ Council to a Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into policing priorities.

They come after independent think tank The Police Foundation described current capabilities as an “analogue police service in a digital world”.

The NPCC report said: “Not only will crime be driven by science and technology, but a modern police service will need to harness science and technology.

“This could be through using AI, robotics or digital forensics to help predict, respond and investigate crime. Regardless of the type of technology, policing needs to be able to understand and utilise these advances in an agile and effective way.”

Roger Hirst, Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “If we do not embrace this change we will get outmanoeuvred by criminals. We need to provide officers with the technology they need to prevent and investigate crime and build effective prosecutions.

“We also need to be brave enough to consider building totally new capabilities. Using data better will allow us to identify and understand crime hotspots and repeat perpetrators.”

Professor Paul Taylor, who was made the first National Policing Chief Scientific Adviser to the NPCC in 2021, has been developing a new science and technology plan for policing to work with a planned Government National Crime and Justice Laboratory.

The strategy involves learning from technological successes used by police forces across the globe, including those in Singapore, the US and New Zealand.

In October, the Met Police also appointed the first scientific adviser to its Management Board, Prof Lawrence Sherman, who began his career in the New York City police in 1971. He has since conducted or designed field research and experiments in more than 30 police agencies across five continents.

The Police Foundation told the inquiry: “Relational, investigative and digital skills all need improving and training should become a mandatory minimum standard.”

But it warned that forces must ensure “their use of technology and digital tools is ethical, proportionate and justified, ensuring appropriate governance is in place, with a principle of minimum intrusion followed”.

A spokeswoman for Civil Rights group Liberty said: “There has been a worrying trend towards the Government allowing more and more of people’s private data to be used and shared without their knowledge. In 2020, we won a landmark legal case against facial recognition, with the High Court ruling that its use doesn’t protect the privacy rights of those who are scanned.

“It is time for the Government to recognise the serious dangers of this intrusive technology.”

A Home Office spokesman said the sector should “seize the opportunities that digital technology and data analytics bring”, adding: “The Government is proposing total police funding of up to £17.2billion in 2023/24, an increase of up to £287million.”





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