10/12/2013 10:00 GMT | Updated 09/02/2014 05:59 GMT

"Seeing the Big Picture" How Visual Analytics Technology Helps Law Enforcement Get to Grips with Crime

Like many organisations across the public sector, law enforcement agencies are expected to continuously improve their performance. Even when crime levels are low or falling, isolated failures are often put in the spotlight. This can in turn adversely impact public perceptions and decision-makers' reactions.

These reactions are likely to be even more negative if it emerges that information was potentially available to prevent serious crimes but it was not acted on because no one knew the information was there. This is often the case where there is no effective solution in place to analyse an agency's data holistically to provide a clear view of information held or provide any indicators of the likely risk.

Unfortunately, gathering intelligence and analysing it to identify threats is never easy. Serious crime is often associated with organised gangs and networks. These groups may in turn be linked with others at a national or international level. Agencies need to track these complex and rapidly evolving networks and relationships, while spotting trends and interpreting patterns. With ever growing data volumes, agencies are increasingly pushed to gain a holistic view of available information and interpret patterns in the critical golden hour of any investigation.

Increasing volumes of data can hamper agencies' effectiveness. More than 53 per cent of all organisations surveyed in a recent Economist Intelligence Unit study, said they are not leveraging ALL of their valuable data. In fact, they said that - at best - they're leveraging roughly half of it. And 24 per cent say their most valuable data isn't being leveraged at all. In the context of law enforcement, this means agencies could be missing those critical 'nuggets' of data that can help them both prevent and solve crime.

It's a problem made even worse by spending cuts. Staffing levels have been slashed in many forces while expenditure on IT architectures and supporting systems has also been hit. Forces are finding it more and more difficult to access big data, analyse it quickly and see the bigger picture.

This means agencies are struggling to make decisions based on all their data. At the same time, they are finding it hard to allocate resources to more effectively intervene and prevent crime.

Coming up with a Solution

Fortunately, a new approach is now coming on stream that will help forces proactively addess these challenges. Instead of forcing agencies to use sampling and sub-setting techniques, the latest analytics tools allow them to visualise and analyse all of their data available. This in turn enables them to paint a complete picture of the policing situation they face.

Using visual analytics allows agencies to explore the masses of data they are trying to exploit and quickly find answers to key questions within it. This ensures an effective response to tactical situations, allowing more time to strategically tackle long-term, complex problems.

Tactical and strategic reports can be quickly created for executive briefings, using data taken from a wide variety of sources and delivered in multiple different formats including on web and mobile-based platforms. Decisions can be based on solid, robust data and resources allocated to guide intervention and crime prevention.

Today, this new focus on visualising intelligence is helping law enforcement agencies the world over reduce risk by driving faster time to insight and ultimately better decision-making.