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Using addresses in the police service

Police forces use addresses and location information in almost every aspect of law enforcement; from keeping accurate records on the addresses of victims and witnesses or suspects and offenders, to using the exact location of a crime or incident to verify an alibi, or to subsequently shape a crime-prevention policy.

By Gayle Gander, Head of Marketing at GeoPlace, with Olivia Powell, GIS Manager at Avon & Somerset Constabulary

At the GeoPlace annual conference in 2019, Olivia Powell presented a clear and concise vision of ‘The journey of an address in the Police system. The presentation resonated with attendees and we were asked for more information on how the Police utilise addressing. Following the conference, GeoPlace published Olive’s presentation as a case study and we worked together to design an infographic which demonstrates the flow of an address through from deployment to record transfer.

Addresses created by local councils and collated by GeoPlace are made available to the emergency services via Ordnance Survey’s AddressBase range of products. Here’s the ‘journey of an address in the police system’, or ‘how council addresses and locations assist the police nationally’ as told by Olivia Powell, GIS Manager, Avon & Somerset Police

We face challenges every day

The police have core operational duties which include:

  1. protecting life and property
  2. preserving order
  3. preventing the commission of offences
  4. bringing offenders to justice.

Our police forces do an incredible job, responding to reports of criminal activity, mitigating risk, following up on antisocial behaviour, liaising with the public, and providing support for rehabilitation – location plays an important role in this mix.

A precise and comprehensive geospatial reference is important in almost every aspect of law enforcement, and the ability to standardise records and correlate locations precisely is essential: more and more, law enforcement agencies are seeing the UPRN as the common denominator that links disparate aspects of their work together.

“Location is at the heart of everything we do . By using a authoritative and referenced address database with UPRN right across our workstreams, in every part of our work, we hope to be more efficient and effective in serving our community by bringing down crime levels, increasing our responsiveness

Olivia Powell, GIS Manager at Avon & Somerset Constabulary
From keeping accurate records on the addresses of victims and witnesses or suspects and offenders, to using the exact location of a crime to verify an alibi, or to subsequently shape a crime-prevention policy – this means it’s crucial that location details stored in an interoperable, secure way, and that the source – our National Gazetteers – are kept up to date.

We find solutions by bringing location to life

Whether we realise it or not, as the people protected and served by law enforcement, we often provide the first and most important location point in a sequence of connected events. The first report of incident is the trigger for a long series of locations that may or may not need to be connected. For example:

  • A call for service comes in, and the call-handler records any and all addresses from that call. If the call needs attendance then the location is pushed to a dispatch team. The dispatch team will co-ordinate officers and support teams, sending them out to that location. And if a potential crime is discovered, forensics staff may also be dispatched and all recoveries will be recorded with locations on a regional database
  • In the case of a missing person, several locations may be recorded: the place where they live, addresses of relatives or associates, a location that identifies where they were last seen, where they were going to, and any places that may be significant. in order to maximise the chances of finding that person
  • In the event of a criminal offence, the location of the crime, as well as the addresses of the victim and witnesses are kept within the ‘offence file’ to allow officers to keep contact. If offenders are found and brought to justice their records will also be added to the file; which could be eventually passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service if ending up in court.
  • The location at which a crime happened is also shared with other police forces on the Police National Computer and, further to an anonymisation process, published on the <a href="https://www.police.uk/">police.uk open data website
  • Precise location is also essential for delivering strategic tactical responses, and in co-ordinating crime prevention strategies. Intelligence Crime Analysts, for example, will run analysis on crime patterns using location as a common denominator and identify location-specific crime prevention measures: these could be ranging from local interventions to working partners agencies in designing out crime or improving road safety.

UPRNs are key

By using AddressBase Premium and UPRNs to confirm and correlate incidents, and any persons involved, law enforcement agencies can share information (when appropriate and required) with each other in complete confidence, knowing that the data has been authoritatively referenced. This speeds up the work of the police, and makes the service more effective in protecting citizens.

Olivia Powell presented this subject at the GeoPlace conference. On our website you can see slides and listen to the audio of her presentation. A downloadable version of this article is here and the infographic ‘The journey of an address in the Police system’ is available here.


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