UK police to have BlackBerry access to investigation system

Aim to help police access key data when out conducting investigations

The National Policing Improvement Agency will set up mobile access to its central Holmes 2 investigation system.

Under a deal with existing supplier Unisys, and new software supplier Dexterra, officers at 59 police forces across the UK will be able to access the system on their Blackberrys or Windows-Mobile based PDAs.

Police across forces are already spending £80 million on mobile devices that will also allow officers to take fingerprints, check a central database of criminals, and file reports while they are still at crime scenes.

Over 5,000 investigators, support staff and managers will be able to set up mobile access to Holmes 2, which allows forces to share and find information more easily.

Using the Dexterra Concert application development platform, the police will build 11 applications for a range of tasks, including managing case progress, storing exhibit information, and searching and linking information from different cases. Each police force will be able to procure the combination of applications it chooses.

One month ago, the police announced it had made large modifications to the system, run by Unisys. The changes mean forces can more easily share information, and a new tagging system enables clearer labelling and better searches for specific details.

After the changes, police piloting the system found a 40 percent improvement in response times when searching for information. In order to see the information input by another force, however, cross-force agreements have to be in place.

The system helps police process the vast amounts of information generated during investigations, and aids them in identifying critical information links that could hold the key to solving a case.

During the last ten years, the HOLMES system has been used in around half of murder investigations, and has helped police solve multi-million pound fraud cases. It was used by the Metropolitan Police to help identify British citizens involved in the September 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

In early April the NPIA finally appointed a contractor, Logica, to build the Police National Database which will contain data on the criminals themselves. That appointment came five years after the Bichard report stated that police data sharing needed to be improved "as a matter of urgency".

That report, into the police investigation of the murders of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, found that the failure to link up intelligence led to the killer, Ian Huntley, being able to work as a school caretaker in spite of previous criminal allegations in areas of the country covered by other police forces.

But last July, a high level report by Sir Ian Magee found that the police had failed to introduce about a third of the recommendations on data sharing in the Bichard report, in spite of £2 billion worth of "public protection IT".

The PND is expected to use relevant information gathered from the HOLMES 2 investigations system.

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Leo King

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