PwC: New Models for Policing Emerge as Law Enforcement Moves to Tackle Unprecedented Challenges

Originally Published by PwC.

New models for policing harnessing data, digitization, public and private sector organizations, and more diverse skills, offer law enforcement opportunities to improve how they tackle unprecedented emerging challenges from global criminal activity.


In a study by PwC – Policing in a Networked World – twenty-five senior policing leaders from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK, were interviewed on their police organizations’ experiences tackling crime in a disruptive era of rapid technological and societal change.

Domestic violence, child and elder abuse and sexual servitude are taking place behind closed doors while digitization and the cybercrime that it has enabled has brought with it a type of criminal activity that is hidden and borderless.

In analysis for the study of the latest aggregated, publicly-available data (see note 3 below), incidences of so-called complex crime rose by over 25% on average across Australia, England and Wales, the Netherlands and Sweden in the period 2010-15. This included crimes such as sexual offenses, fraud and drug offenses (both trafficking and possession).

At the same time traditional crime – including theft, motor theft, burglary, robbery and serious assault – have fallen over the same period by an average across all six countries of almost 10%.

Demographic changes, urbanization and immigration are also shaping communities with evolving expectations and experiences of policing, while criminals have access to new markets and alternative supply chains.

The study finds that these developments threaten to undermine both the capability of police organizations to stay ahead of crime – and, crucially, the public perception that they are doing so. Many police leaders indicated that the police are “at a tipping point”.

But they were also unanimous in saying that the most effective solutions were showing significant promise as new ways of meeting those challenges.

“The police are still viewed largely positively by the public – for good reason,” said George Alders, Global Government Security Sector Leader, PwC. “What’s even more encouraging is that while the challenges faced by many police organizations are real – whether it be from cross-border networks exploiting data to commit crime or from a rise in drug and domestic sexual offences – there are also real answers to these challenges.”

The police leaders highlighted huge potential for data analytics and big data to drive new approaches, including identifying areas and individuals most at risk from criminality and harm, allowing police resources to be targeted more efficiently to meet demand.

Alders comments: “Criminals may misuse data, but data itself is also the police force’s friend. It has enormous potential as a crime-fighting tool. Successfully applied, technology and data have the potential to change the way policing is done, disrupt criminality and improve productivity.”

Police leaders also said there is increasing recognition that the police work in a broader ecosystem that includes other authorities, such as border control and counter-terrorism. Many examples of successful police initiatives are cited in the report and underscore our belief that some creative solutions already exist to tackle these challenges, including:

  • In Canada, police in Vancouver are combining civilian expertise at higher education institutions with computer algorithms to come up with “predictive policing” models that anticipate where certain crimes are likely to take place, post code-by-post code.
  • In Norway, the police have made strides in using digitisation by having all the various elements of the police officers on the ground, technicians and others working in parallel on a case rather than sequentially. Where a crime has been committed, police will make audio recordings on site and upload these directly into police systems so that experts can conduct any analysis that’s needed in real time, even as the frontline officers continue their work.
  • In the United Kingdom police have implemented an innovative recruitment scheme, known as Police Now, in an effort to give university graduates with leadership potential a route to becoming police officers. Its mission is to transform communities, reduce crime and increase the public’s confidence in policing by recruiting and developing an outstanding and diverse group of individuals to be leaders in society and on the policing front line.

The study concludes that law enforcement should consider applying six responses to improve policing now and for the longer term:

  1. Aligning strategy and funding
  2. Creating agile operating models
  3. Balancing local, national and international capability
  4. Exploiting technology and data
  5. Building the future workforce
  6. Embedding legal and societal responsibility

Alders comments: “The challenges and opportunities facing policing require an ambitious, sophisticated and unified response to ensure that the police meet the public’s expectations of law enforcement. Furthermore, this needs to be tackled with urgency.”

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