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Big data transforming Sindh Police

National

March 9, 2019

The Sindh Police are embracing ‘smart policing’ principles with the adoption of data-driven technologies to fight crimes efficiently. The IT Department of the Sindh Police has digitized zettabytes of criminal, prison, police station, biometric records and integrated it with various softwares making them a critical tool in identifying a criminal with his criminal profile.

Clueless about the identity of terrorists in the aftermath of attack on the Chinese Consulate, DIG IT, Sultan Ali Khawaja, says “we ran the fingerprints of the three terrorists on a biometric programme and with a stroke of luck the NIC of one of the terrorists ‘popped up’. Thereafter, we were able to identify the terrorists almost instantly.” The palm devices of the biometric software, Green Bit, are available with almost all the SSP offices. This software is also connected with the CRIS (Crime Record Information System) displaying the criminal profile or otherwise of a person in just a few clicks. Being made available at police stations, a suspect on the basis of his fingerprints could now be vetted, against the names, pictures and criminal records of two million ‘confirmed’ criminals of Sindh and Punjab.

One of the better things to have happened with the merger of inter provincial crime records is the easier tracking of criminals trying to jump from one provincial jurisdiction to another. In future, even police mobiles could be equipped with the handy devices to scan criminal information, Sultan said. Previously, it would take days and weeks to draw complete data of a suspect from police stations and courts strewn across the province and there was always the danger of some critical information being left out, to the advantage of the suspect.

Sultan Ali Khawaja says that in rather advanced stages of installation and integration, various software and the related infrastructure are now available in larger parts of the province, making the provincial law enforcement agency a precursor of a Digital Police Force. Sultan said while work began in the direction in 2016 and gained with respective IGPs, it gathered a lot of pace with the current IGP Kalim Imam who took personal interest in the multidimensional project.

Steps have also been taken towards a paperless environment. There is also a police station Record Management System. The software has digitised and integrated all the police station registers alongside on line FIRs, case properties, lists of dreaded proclaimed offenders and absconders. There is an investigation software too containing all the case information from basic to conclusive investigation. “The Crime Record Information System is linked with the Hotel Eye and the judicial, Case Flow Management System, strengthening the long arm of law.” Together, this Big Data is accessible to the courts and vice versa cutting down grey areas where the delinquents operate.

Like the Punjab, another important development has been to track offenders using multiple nondescript lodges, guesthouses and hotels, presenting a hazardous gaping hole in the security system. This has been plugged by virtue of the Hotel Eye System. Based on the mandatory CNIC registration, the moment a wanted criminal walks into a hotel, the information is instantly relayed to police station where the crime was committed and to the police station near the lodging place for quick response. “The critical advantage of the Big Data is it works with the least human involvement, cutting down chances of malfeasance.” So far, 700 hotels, guesthouses, and lodges have been connected to the system and it is being expanded to cover the known 2,000, says Khawaja. Ever since the Hotel Eye has been operationalised, as many as 100 criminals have been rounded up from these lodges in Karachi alone and many from those in DHA which had become a security blind spot.

“It was through the Hotel Eye programme that we managed to find the places where the Chinese Consulate terrorists and their handlers had stayed in the interior Sindh before the attack,” DIG Sultan said.

But not every wanted criminal identified by the Hotel Eye could be arrested.! “In some cases, the police stations failed to timely respond to the information about the presence of wanted criminals dispatched by the Hotel Eye system, due to lack of active monitoring.” The actionable information is a highly volatile commodity and failure to act in real time is no more an option, calling for behavioral change. “The district SSPs would have to shed old style of command and be involved hands on to monitor and pursue a given information.” Several times, the IT department has to inform the police to take action on the basis of information generated by the Hotel Eye system.

The baby steps towards police digitsation, a massive undertaking across the province is in different stages of deployment and integration, sometimes posing technical problems which hopefully they would be addressed in time.

Sultan says efforts are being made to standardise and integrate uniform high resolution surveillance cameras with facial identification features across Karachi and other parts of the province, including public places like banks, malls, cinemas and hotels and streets with the police control centres.

Globally, policing have been revolutionized by Big Data. Analyzing hosts of crime, gang and personal data, while being connected to a web of sensors and surveillance sources, is leading to predictive technologies that forecast crime, bring down the crime rate while drastically cutting down the financial costs. A cherished dream for any society, once fully installed and integrated with surveillance systems across the province, the Sindh Police will have a great opportunity to improve its image and instill public confidence.

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