Information on citizens is already out there. Bringing it together can do much to influence people's lives for the better.
While every crime and offender is different, there are common factors behind what makes someone start offending – and what makes them stop. The easier and faster it is to identify the triggers behind offending, the more chance we have of cutting crime. Smart, appropriate information-sharing through technology can play a vital role in making this happen.
Help through early detection
The key risk factors for offending are well documented: an offending parent; poor educational attainment; exclusion from school; family breakup; drug and alcohol abuse; unemployment and homelessness. For any one individual, tracking these indicators can in effect give a risk-of-offending ‘score’. Identifying people scoring highly at any stage – from childhood to early adulthood – allows interventions to take place, for instance providing extra educational support, tackling substance abuse problems, or finding suitable accommodation. The problem is that at present all these risk factors – and all the solutions – are ‘owned’ by different agencies: schools, social services departments, housing departments, the NHS – none of whose ‘core business’ is reducing reoffending. Those who do have cutting crime as their mission – the police, probation providers, Youth Offending Teams – often only see their ‘clients’ when it is too late and offending is already established.
Imagine the power of being able to analyse information held by a wide variety of agencies and identify those at greatest risk of offending, before such negative behaviour was entrenched. In almost all cases, this data is held electronically, but in a variety of largely incompatible formats and systems. It is possible, however, to sort through databases held by different agencies and create a holistic picture of an individual’s chance of offending. Partial records can even be matched together and verified to ensure they relate to the same person. Doing so allows resources to be targeted rationally and effectively on those most at risk of offending, in time to make a difference. Atos can make this happen.
This is not writing people off as criminals in the making: quite the reverse. It is recognising that external factors mean that for some individuals to fulfil their potential as productive members of society, they need extra support to ensure that they thrive.
Beneficial for society
As with any data-sharing initiative, information security and privacy must be respected. But there are immense potential benefits from analysing an individual’s circumstances to create bespoke support packages to help them. The technology exists to do this and is already proving its worth in initiatives around the country. The more widely it is deployed, the wider the benefits to society.