Citizen portal piloted by Avon and Somerset Constabulary

Avon and Somerset Constabulary and North Somerset Council are teaming up to launch a new citizen portal. Using funding of £575,000 secured through the Home Office ‘precursor’ Police Innovation Fund, an app will be designed for mobile and tablet devices that will allow residents in north Somerset to access local authority and police services in one place, without the need to visit each agency’s online services separately.

Feb 26, 2014
By Paul Jacques
Haroon Iqbal

The aim is to have all the services that are available on the police website accessible through the app, including online reporting and ‘track my crime’. Council services such as reporting fly-tipping, noise complaints and missed recycling and waste collections will also be accessed through the app.

The collaboration builds on the successful partnership between the two authorities that has already seen a central hub for council and police services established covering Weston-super-Mare and Clevedon that has earned national praise.

Avon and Somerset police and crime commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens said: “The bid utilises online technology to bring the police and council closer to the people they serve. The new online work will strengthen even further the important joint working between the police and the council already started at the town hall and [North Somerset Council’s] Castlewood office.”

Chief Inspector Alex Cohen, the local police commander, added: “In north Somerset our communities are already accessing face-to-face public services in one central location so it makes sense to provide an online platform for them to access our services wherever they are.

“Online content is increasingly accessed through mobile devices so the citizen portal will make it easier for residents to report crimes, find out what’s happening in their local area, contact local officers and access popular council services.”

Leader of North Somerset Council, councillor Nigel Ashton, said accessing services digitally was the preferred way for many people – “they can do it when and where it suits them”.

“Our successful bid for funding means we can develop this app firstly in north Somerset and then roll it out across the rest of the Avon and Somerset police area,” he said.

“This work builds on the already excellent working relationship we have with the police and the work we have done in the [joint services] gateway in the town hall in Weston-super-Mare and integrating Clevedon police station into the offices at Castlewood.”

The force and the council said there was an extensive amount of work to do in the design, build and testing of the technology to ensure it was cutting-edge and met the needs of the community so it was unlikely to be launched until later this year.

The project will be piloted in north Somerset with the intention of rolling it out across the whole force area.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary also had three successful joint bids with neighbouring forces for a further share of last month’s Government’s precursor fund of £20 million that was made available to PCCs ahead of the first full year of operation of its Police Innovation Fund that will be worth up to £50 million a year from 2014/15.

The largest award was almost £1 million to transform the use and storage of digital imaging evidence in the Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and Avon and Somerset forces.

This four-force bid will radically transform the way in which digital imagery is used by police, local authority and criminal justice partners.

Officers will be equipped with mobile technology so they can access key operational systems while out on patrol and also have the capability to capture electronic witness signatures.

The intention is to enhance public confidence and reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and disorder.

The project is also designed to improve service to victims, increase time spent on patrol by reducing bureaucracy and speed up the criminal justice process.

With digital evidence increasingly seen as a vital asset in tackling 21st century crime, the project will encompass the recording of digital images (by mobile phone, video, still cameras and CCTV) through to storage, management, sharing, retrieval and disposal of images.

The Home Office awarded £994,000 in the current year towards the project.

A further joint bid of £848,000 from the Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire forces was also approved to help fund a new state-of-the-art South West Forensic Science Service

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