The value of data

Managing data resources is no easy task in a mobile digital world,
where data volumes proliferate and, when it comes to information,
criminals can be economical with the truth. Gloucestershire
Constabulary is using business analytics technology to address data
quality issues and enhance intelligence-led policing, ensuring higher
criminal apprehension rates.

Oct 14, 2010
By Paul Jacques
Sergeant Matiu Ratana

Managing data resources is no easy task in a mobile digital world, where data volumes proliferate and, when it comes to information, criminals can be economical with the truth. Gloucestershire Constabulary is using business analytics technology to address data quality issues and enhance intelligence-led policing, ensuring higher criminal apprehension rates.

Gloucestershire Constabulary is using analytics software to achieve new levels of business intelligence and reporting, helping to improve data accuracy and operational efficiency – giving the force access to up-to-date intelligence, enabling police officers to be in the right place, at the right time, more often.

“Good policing is about quality intelligence: making a link between crime and offender,” said Reg Barnard, head of Gloucestershire Constabulary’s information system development.

High quality data and up-to-date intelligence enables resources to be used as effectively as possible, improve performance, report accurately to the Home Office and ultimately share information with other forces, he explained.

“Gloucestershire was one of the first forces to recognise the data quality issue,” said Mr Barnard.

“This has since become a far bigger national issue, particularly with the Police National Database (PND) from 2011. I think we’ve stayed at the forefront of dealing with data quality in support of national objectives.”

These include the IMPACT programme to improve the police’s ability to manage and share information and the Management of Police Information (MoPI) national standard; both driving even greater demands for higher quality data, reliable intelligence and information sharing with other forces and agencies following the Bichard Inquiry.

Using a data integration server from business analytics software and services specialist SAS, Gloucestershire Constabulary has been able to address data quality concerns associated with human error and inaccurate details collected from criminals that cannot be verified on the street.

The technology ensures that information on crime is kept up to date and meets the standards driven by the MoPI initiative in databases, including Unity, the core system covering crime and custody; VPFPO (vehicle parking and fixed penalty offences); and the domestic violence database, with details of victims and offenders. Ensuring the data across these databases is always accurate gives reliable intelligence to Gloucestershire officers, as well as the other forces across the country.

“Every organisation faces data quality issues, but in the police force we have all the usual problems, such as bad spelling and mis-keying, magnified by the fact that many of the people we are dealing with are less than entirely honest. Criminals give us all kinds of false information, such as wrong date of birth or misspelt first names,” said Mr Barnard.

The solution was originally selected as part of the force’s Vision 5 programme to make investments to promote effective and efficient services, but with amendments to the Freedom of Information Act, the force came under new obligations to keep data in good order.

Integration

Nick Churchill, a former detective and now the force’s database administrator, used SAS to integrate the three legacy systems: Unity, VPFPO and the domestic violence database. “All three systems used incompatible software: Oracle, Ingres and SQL,” said Mr Churchill.

Data from source systems is subjected to data quality procedures to profile, cleanse and standardise. Users can adjust sensitivity on matching fields, like name or address, to identify the biggest problems first then work downwards. This means you can quickly pick up obvious alternative spellings but also less obvious matches, explained Mr Churchill.

Questionable records are routed to the owner for audit and correction. The software can ‘cluster’ near-matches to help correct and update data, saving a hu

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