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Edge Hill researcher assists police in improving the use of a national system to tackle crime

Publish date: September 21, 2022

Police forces in the UK benefit from a national data management system that offers an innovative approach to information sharing, new research has found.

The Police National Database (PND) emerged in 2011 to facilitate national law enforcement agencies to share information and support public protection in the wake of the Soham murders of 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

New research led by Dr Rebecca Phythian, Senior Lecturer in Policing at Edge Hill University, sought to understand the use of the PND and identify the lessons that can be learnt a decade after its launch.

Dr Phythian said: “Information sharing systems are becoming increasingly important to the police as offenders become more mobile and cross geographic borders. However, these systems are complex and costly to operate. Studies like this are essential, as they highlight effective practice as well as pointing out the opportunities for improvement.”

The PND brings together more than 230 databases from about 50 multi-jurisdictional agencies to offer one coherent database that all agencies can interrogate.

Professor Emeritus of Policing and Criminal Investigation at the University of Central Lancashire, Stuart Kirby, said: “The increased role of technology in society means it’s difficult for offenders not to leave electronic traces of their crimes.

“The PND is a useful tool in helping collect disparate sources of intelligence to protect victims or target offenders by providing law enforcement with a more holistic picture, for example of a person or location, in real-time.

“Local data can have national significance in this respect. Like all information systems, enhancing data quality and use of the system would support the database’s effectiveness.”

Dr Phythian added: “The benefits of the PND are evident. There’s an array of success stories and examples of best practice – it’s an invaluable tool to law enforcement.

“But, whilst the strengths are acknowledged, the barriers to consistent and regular use of the PND suggest that technological-based change must be reinforced by other organisational change – a finding that reflects previous research into electronic information systems.”

The research was supported by the National Police Chiefs Council and IT and business consulting services firm CGI.

The full research paper can be accessed online.

Dr Phythian, funded by UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, is currently working with a team of experts from policing, industry and academia in the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA to critically assess how information can be effectively exchanged between international law enforcement agencies. An aspect of this research will explore how this could be facilitated by technology.

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