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Exploring technologies to improve how citizens and the police work together to keep us safe

Researchers at The Open University (OU) have received a £1 million Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) grant to improve the way members of the public and authorities such as the police work together. This will support them to better investigate and reduce potential or actual threats to citizen privacy, safety, and security.

The Citizen Forensics project, led by Professor Arosha Bandara, will explore different technologies for people to share data with the police to improve public safety, as well as protecting their privacy and anonymity.

The technologies they will explore range from social media to the ‘Internet of Things’, and deployed in smart homes and across smart cities. This might include activity trackers and personal sensors like body cameras worn by the police; city sensors like traffic monitoring and contactless entry/payment systems; or smart home technologies like connected motion sensors and CCTV cameras.

Technology – a challenge for modern policing

“The world around us has changed, as ubiquitous computing technologies are embedded into many aspects of our lives,” explains Professor Bandara. “This presents both a challenge and opportunity for modern policing. This project aims to deepen our understanding of how technology can enhance the way citizens and the police work together, through an approach called Citizen Forensics.”

The world around us has changed, as ubiquitous computing technologies are embedded into many aspects of our lives

The multi-disciplinary project brings together software engineering, psychology and policing research expertise at The Open University and the University of Exeter, with a national consortium of policing organisations and local government agencies.

A safer community

The research team hope their work will lead to the community feeling safer, better crime detection and conviction rates, and fewer complaints against the police.

“Thanks to this funding, we hope to empower police by exploring better ways for them to gather relevant information, and citizens provide this in a format that protects privacy and anonymity,” Professor Bandara continues. “We will explore how police can better analyse this information to support crime investigations, and help them to ensure officers are deployed appropriately. We will also explore how Citizen Forensics could help empower citizens by using these new technologies to hold the police to account.”

Citizen Forensics builds on the OU’s research on cyber security, which combines human-centred computing and software engineering.


Read more about this EPSRC funding initiative

About Author

Kath works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is a skilled communicator with more than 15 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has a BA (Hons) English and American Literature from University of Warwick and specialises in stories from the Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, BBC programmes, and student stories. In her spare time Kath enjoys touring the country in her hand-painted camper van, Trevor.

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