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What Science Can Do For Policing 2

Second regional meeting of the International Crime Science Network

Cumbria Constabulary Headquarters
28 April 2005

About 25 people attended. They were drawn from police service scientific support units, forensic science providers, universities and the Home Office Scientific Development Branch.

Michael Baxter, the Chief Constable, opened the meeting and welcomed delegates. He indicated that Cumbria were happy to host the meeting, and he expressed support for efforts to increase the contribution that science might make to improvements in policing.

Gloria Laycock and Nick Tilley explained the functions of the Network - to draw scientists and those concerned with crime together to explore the contributions that science might make to the prevention and detection of crime; and the purpose of the meeting - to create an opportunity for scientists better to understand police problems to which they might offer solutions, and for police to understand better the potential contributions that scientists might make to improving their work.

Ken Pease, from the JDI at UCL, spoke about and illustrated the ways in which science had contributed and might further contribute to understanding and controlling crime patterns. He argued that little or nothing that was done ion science had no relevance to understanding crime and its control. Hence nothing in science in principle was irrelevant. He provided a range of examples. He acknowledged that work was already happening, and that the DTI Foresight Programme, the current EPSRC programme were stimulating further work, but he also opened up a wide range of further possibilities.

Colin Aitken, from Edinburgh University's School of Mathematics discussed sample sizes needed to draw inferences with varying levels of confidence from various evidence types, such as consignments of white tables, consignments of CDs, and computer images. He also discussed the calculation of probabilities of matches to relatives on the DNA database.

Chris Solomon, from the Forensic Imaging Group at Kent University, discussed a programme that had been devised to facilitate the construction of images of suspects from witnesses, where witnesses chose most similar faces through a series of sets of options ever more closely resembling the person seen.

There was a general discussion of what might be done better to bring scientists and police together to enable fruitful dialogue and collaboration to take place. Suggestions included: that thought be given to expanding the role of scientific support managers to look beyond forensic science to explore ways in which science, and scientific research, might contribute across the board to help improve police work; that moves be made to explore the possibility of a Crime Research Council to act as a counterpart to the Medical Research Council (there is one in Australia, though the prospects too weak in the UK); and that greater efforts be made to engage operational officers to grasp the problems being faced to explore the potential contributions that science might make too their solution.

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