Blue Line


January 4, 2013  By Christine Robson

by Christine Robson

A police officer walking the beat receives a domestic violence call. The officer pulls up the GPS coordinates on a Smartphone and runs a query on previous incidents at the address and individuals living there, including a CPIC check, local RMS check, PIP, Infopol and MTO drivers license report with DL photos and a weapons query. All this data is provided instantly.

The officer arrives to find the victim is bleeding, has clearly been abused and photographs the injuries and scene. Noticing she doesn’t speak English the officer records her and pulls up an app to translate the audio into English, enabling a conversation.

Fingerprints are collected and sent to a Livescan database to determine if the accused was involved in other incidents. Both parties are interviewed via the Smartphone and the video sent to the disclosure unit to be collected and processed as part of the Crown brief. All of the digital evidence is collected in minutes instead of hours.


Technology has increased police efficiency and radically altered the way agencies collect and process evidence but managing and storing evidence electronically has become a double edge sword, with huge impacts on budgets.

{Retention, data collection and processing}

An in car camera captures an officer pulling over a vehicle, speaking to the subject and arresting him. A second camera records the accused in the back seat as he’s taken to the station. The sergeant in cells watches the live streaming video of the physically and verbally abusive suspect on his computer. The entire two gigabyte video file now has to be seized as evidence management for the crown brief as part of the incident.

Retaining and storing electronic evidence is expensive and that’s a real challenge in this time of budgetary constraint. Lack of funds may mean data is retained for only 30 days or less due to storage costs.

Policing has and will continue to evolve and morph into technology that is pushed our way through commercial users, social media and smarter criminals. Technology will not stand still. We live in a globalized world and there are no longer any boundaries for criminals in a virtualized environment.

With limited or even zero growth in IT budgets, it is increasingly challenging to manage digital evidence. Storing data in private clouds and stricter policies on data retention can help keep costs in check. Clearly the days of keeping data indefinitely are over.

Leasing instead of purchasing equipment, which avoids large capital outlays, and sharing data between police services through portals and large networks, also help stretch budgets. Trade offs will continue to be made and vendors and technology enablers need to ensure they build with cost in mind. Open source and competitive procurement is another trade off for technology adapters in policing.

{Social media}

Most police services know that the way to get buy in from their communities is to stay abreast of social media changes and this includes twittering about daily incidents and events. Facebook is key to reaching young people, who have a strong online presence.

Society is in flux and trends in more traditional types of crime are changing. Cyber bullying, for example, has increased dramatically over the past two years and police services need to stay connected to deal with this problem.

Police services need to stay on top of emerging social and economic trends. Allow citizens to report minor crimes online, for example. Use social media to connect with the community, but guard against the dangers by instituting and enforcing guidelines for members. Inappropriate communication through social media with police officers through friends of friends can have a negative impact.

Customer service and client interaction training is required to engage residents. Its not just about fighting crime anymore, its about being socially connected to the community.

{Criminals are on the forefront}

Criminals quickly adopt new technology, using skimmer devices and micro cameras to empty bank accounts and steal identities, for example. eCrime technical units have seen a dramatic increase in child porn cases. Parents worry that their children will expose themselves to sexual predators hiding as online friends. Stalking has become a serious issue and is harder to track when done online. The copious amounts of personal information available on the Internet allows criminals to access the daily schedule and life of potential victims.

eCrimes units will require more resources as the amount of video and other evidence grows. One case had more than 90 terabytes of evidence, easily surpassing the storage capacity of many police services.

People are now more likely to be the victim of a virtual crime than a “real” crime in the physical world. Cyber crimes are more profitable and less risky. Think of how crimes such as money laundering, identify theft, fraud and extortion have changed with technology.

A denial of service attack, where hackers use thousands of computers to deface a company’s web site with bogus communication, happens every five seconds. These are no longer amateurs but expert hackers with exceptional technological skills who obtain and share bank account numbers, passwords, pins and other information for financial gain.

Keep in mind that real world crimes are taking place in virtual worlds with the use of avatars and other aliases. What is the distinction between real and virtual and how do police patrol a virtual environment and charge an avatar with virtual crimes?

When new technology emerges, remember there is an early adopter criminal eager to exploit it. Boundaries will be electronic, not physical. Police services need to manage and keep their technical crime units abreast of changes and be strategically mindful of what is coming down the pipe. Being reactive will not help solve crime in a electronic world.

{New training demands}

eCrimes units require specialized officers who need continual and expensive training to stay abreast of technological changes. Business intelligence and analytics will increase and so will the specialized skill set that comes with data analysis.

More civilians will be needed to handle administrative and technical work because they are cheaper to employ and allow officers to concentrate on what they are trained to do – patrol the streets and keep communities safe.

Budget struggles, technological evolution and social developments have changed the way we do policing. Partnering with police services locally and nationally is key to future success. We all face these challenges as crime no longer has physical boundaries.


Christine Robson is the Durham Regional Police Service Information Technology Manager. Contact her at or 905 579-1520 x3318 for more information.

Print this page


Stories continue below