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  1. Technology
May 11, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

The limitations of archaic card-based or manual detection methods – exposed and roundly condemned during the Yorkshire Ripper case of 1981 – coupled with the growing constraints on manpower and the increasing complexity and sophistication of crime in the 1980s, have finally galvanised British police forces into acknowledging the crime solving and organisational potential of information technology. Honeywell Bull, clearly endowed with greater foresight, dates its long and synergistic association with the police back to the 1960s, when the Thames Valley Police chose the company for the development of an intelligence system: Honeywell now spends around UKP1m a year on research and development projects targeted at the police market. Flagship crimebuster Honeywell’s customer base now comprises 27 British and Channel Island forces, the Scottish Criminal Records Office, and the Home Office, and altruistic putting-the community-before-profit style protestations do not stop the company claiming – and revelling in – the position of UK market leaders. Honeywell’s flagship crime buster is the Holmes or Home Office Large Major Enquiry System, developed over a four year period with Home Office sponsorship and launched on the market with the Home Office seal of approval in 1985. Essentially, the system enables officers to create a database of indexes containing records and details about a particular crime or event. Indexes can be brought up on screen or printed out, and can subsequently be used as a basis for data cross-referencing or searching – a standard method of looking for clues. Three basic search facilities are available – exact match, key scan and character scan: according to police feed back, searches that could take several weeks to complete can now be achieved by the system in a matter of seconds. The system also offers free text retrieval on all records put into the system’s database, enabling detectives searching for further leads to access complete statements collected at the time of the event. Despite rival suppliers – notably McDonnell Douglas and Burroughs – Honeywell claims installation credit for some 23 of the Holmes Systems that are currently in use at forces throughout the UK, and is now responding to predictable customer demand to supply a product to link and share information contained on different Honeywell Holmes databases to assist multiforce inquiries. Called the Holmes Link, the product has been designed to simplify the current data-pooling procedure – a lengthy and complex process which, if even only two forces are involved, necessitates the temporary disconnection of one of the two terminals and the setting up of two or three communications lines, leaving one force without control over its data and both dependent on the vagaries of the public switched telephone network. With the Holmes Link software, forces wishing to share information simply connect modems to their terminals and send data using X25 protocols. The software also enables the user to search the Holmes Central Facility in Hendon, where forces with Holmes databases from different suppliers can download information for sharing. Honeywell anticipates a high take-up of the software – which costs UKP15,000 – amongst its customer base in the next 18 months: at the moment only two forces have invested in the product but Honeywell maintains that the project is being closely monitored by an interested Home Office. Another recent offering from Honeywell is the CIS or Crime Information System, developed over a period of 18 months in conjuction with the Cambridgeshire Constabulary in a contract worth UKP388,000. The system is designed to minimise paperwork and simplify and assist in different areas of crime recording and analysis: the recording of various crime details and offenders’ details for crime pattern analysis, the production of the kind of annual and monthly statistical reports required by the Police Authority, and, planned for the future, the compilation of details on wanted or suspected persons to provide a basis for criminal intelligence

work. The system runs on Honeywell’s DPS 6 family of compatible microcomputers, manufactured at the company’s Newhouse plant in Lanarkshire. Honeywell also offers products designed to speed up and automate routine police work, liberating police officers from the desk, and enabling forces to satisfy public demand for more visible policing. Honeywell’s firearms and shotguns system, for example, allows the labour-intensive and time consuming business of issuing certificates and registering weapons dealers, clubs, and land where shooting rights are held to be achieved with greater speed and efficiency: the system also generates reminder letters and a range of standard reports. Other packages of this ilk include Command and Control, the Holmes precursor still used by many forces as a resources availablilty, action plan, and incident logging system, and the Personnel Management system which provides instant, security controlled access to a wide range of police employee information. Recent converts include Strathclyde Police, who have chosen to invest UKP150,000 in an office automation pilot which will run Honeywell’s One Mail electronic mail and One Plus word processing packages on the DPS6 Plus 414 mini. Artificial intelligence One area of enormous potential yet to be tapped in the UK although currently generating considerable excitement in the US is the use of artificial intelligence or expert systems within computerised crime solving, incident monitoring and management packages. Now busy considering a distribution and marketing agreement with Honeywell, Cogitaire Ltd, a family-run software business based in Lust, Dartmoor, has successfully developed a package currently being evaluated by police in Baltimore, which incorporates knowledge distilled from police experts to produce a series of if A, then B or forward-chain style deductions. Past detective experience has shown, for example, that if a break-in is carried out by climbing through a window, the offender is likely to be young, and that, if young, the offender is likely to be local: Cogitaire’s product collates and stores knowledge of this kind in a database, and can then be used to build a comprehensive profile of a suspect to be matched against other sources of information. Honeywell’s newly developed AIMS Action Information Management System, which triggers a number of predefined and contingency plans in response to a major incident, can be taken as evidence that Honeyell Bull will shortly be saying expert systems to the UK’s ever-expanding crime problems.

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