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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

Predictive Policing Programme

Date of request: May 30, 2018
Reference: 737/18


  1. Are Avon and Somerset Police currently trialling or using, or has it ever trialled or used, any form of predictive policing programme? If so, please provide the following information:
  2. The name given to this predictive policing programme
  3. When the programme was first used and whether it is still in use / when use ceased
  4. How this predictive policing programme works, specifically:
    a. What data is used by the programme
    b. Whether it operates using algorithms or artificial intelligence
    c. What human interaction or oversight is required
  5. The specific hardware and/or software used to build this predictive policing programme
  6. Any guidance documents provided in relation to the use of this predictive policing programme
  7. Any testing or research conducted in relation to this predictive policing programme
    a. In particular, any examination as to potential bias within the software and the exacerbation of pre-existing inequalities
  8. The Privacy Impact Assessment conducted in relation to this predictive policing programme


1. Yes

2. No specific programme name however the software is SPSS Modeler

3. This is currently still in use

4a & 4b. Please see below, this information is exempt by virtue of Section 31 – Law Enforcement.

4c. This specific information is not recorded.

5. See Q2 above.

6. No information held.

7. A University of West of England student is being funded to evaluate the approach within policing and will provide independent assessment of the technique.

7a. This is not specifically recorded, however consideration has been given to removing certain information from the modelling process for this reason.

8. No information held.

I am unable to provide a response to Q4a & Q4b as this information is exempt under section 31 – Law Enforcement. This is a qualified and prejudice based exemption which means there is a requirement to identify and evidence the harm that would be caused by disclosure and consideration given to the public interest.

Harm considerations

Information will not be disclosed where the current or future law enforcement role of the force could be compromised by the release of that information, i.e., where the prevention/detection of crime, the apprehension/prosecution of offenders or the administration of justice may be hindered as a result of the release of information.

When considering the harm in releasing information held it is recognised that the public expect police forces and other law enforcement agencies to use all powers and tactics available to prevent and detect crime, and maintain public safety. There are a number of tactics available to police, and the use of data analytics and/or predictive modelling as tools for identifying crime hotspots, resource deployments and potential future areas of criminal activity is among them. Applied correctly, and supported by appropriate training, and with GDPR considerations, they are proportionate tactics which provide an effective means of obtaining, disseminating and acting upon intelligence.

Police forces work in conjunction with other agencies, and information is shared, in line with information sharing protocols. Modern day policing is intelligence led, which is particularly pertinent with regard to the use of data analytics and predictive modelling. With budget constraints over recent years, any tactic which may allow police to proactively prevent and detect crime is a more efficient use of public money.

Placing information into the public domain in respect of the decisions made by the software and the data that is utilised for these decisions will jeopardise this technique and erode the police services ability to safeguard the public. Certain information if released could assist individuals to change their behaviour with the view to avoiding detection. The impact of releasing information in this respect would undermine the use of data analytics and/or predictive modelling as a tool. In particular where forces employ different tactics, a picture could be built up as to where these activities take place, and the decisions around policing that follow. Should individuals be aware of the specifics of policing techniques in certain areas they will be more able to circumvent these by moving locations to suit their purposes.

Public interest considerations

Factors favouring disclosure:

Disclosure of this information could aid public debate and awareness of the technology and software we employ. The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent, and how the police deploy resources within their force areas. In addition, and in light of recent GPDR changes, there has been more information publically available to ensure the public are aware of their rights in respect of personal data and how it is used.

Confirming the force’s use of data analytics / predictive modelling could increase public confidence in terms of public spending, and the fact that the police are utilising a range of current technology products to prevent crime would be a beneficial factor.

Factors favouring non-disclosure

The security of the country is of paramount importance, and the Police service as a whole is charged with preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities they serve. As part of that policing purpose, various tactical tools may be utilised on an ongoing basis. The police service will not divulge information held, if to do so would place an individual, or community as a whole, at risk.

Disclosure of such information is not just to an individual, but is seen as a disclosure to the world at large, which will include those who undertake criminal activity. Comparison of responses from various forces would identify the specific data analytic techniques used by individual forces; identifying this could increase criminal activity in areas perceived as more vulnerable, or inform criminals of police tactics, thus enabling them to take measures to avoid detection.

Balance test

The benefits of public debate are recognised, however the comparative arguments in favour of non-disclosure, which in this case is our ability to prevent and detect crime, by far out way these. The Police service will not disclose information which will undermine law enforcement thereby assisting those intent on committing crime. On balance therefore the decision is that this information will not be disclosed. This represents a refusal notice for this part of your request.

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