New frontiers of criminal justice: James Slessor

11 March 2015

In the balancing act of delivering services that exceed citizen expectations whilst scaling back costs, public safety organisations are all too familiar with the need to combine progress with prudence. Many police and justice organisations have already stepped up to the challenge, demonstrating impressive improvements in efficiencies at the same time as reducing crime. Yet running a tight ship is fine when there is an end in sight, but in the “new normal” of financial constraint, further strain is being placed on how public safety organisations operate.

Drastic times call for fundamental reform. In the future, the family of organisations that make up the criminal justice system – police, courts, prison and probation – must not only continue to do things differently, but also embed and sustain change. By using digital technologies, public safety organisations can better focus on crime prevention (by being proactive), join up the criminal justice system (and by default become more effective) and increase collaboration beyond the criminal justice system (becoming more efficient). Indeed, in a recent Accenture survey about the impact of digital technologies on the justice system, the majority of citizens said that digital helps speed up outcomes (63 per cent) and reduce public costs (62 per cent).

So how can digital help public safety organisations keep pace with citizen expectations and counteract threats, such as cyber attacks or radicalism over the long term? Accenture believes public safety organisations should strive to be proactive, share data and collaborate.

Be proactive: One important way to improve the workload of public safety organisations is reducing the number of crimes taking place in the first place. Being able to prevent more crimes will not only benefit the police (by lessening the number of incidents and freeing up critical police resources), but also the public, improving public safety and resulting in fewer victims of crime. This benefit flows through the wider criminal justice system, reducing demand and caseloads.

Share data: By sharing up-to-the-minute, accurate information, public safety organisations can have a consistent view of the individual. Predictive analytics solutions can detect patterns and trends while the use of workflows and automation eliminates manual processes, makes data sharing easier and faster, supporting improved decision making. Public safety organisations can better assess likely crime hotspots and predict behaviours enabling them to spend time on preventing and detecting crime.

Collaborate: Making the transition from traditional practices requires a new way of thinking about end-to-end processes and greater collaboration between all parties, with citizens also playing an active role. In a recent survey 96 per cent of citizens said they expect to play a role in policing. If public safety organisations create a more problem-solving and service-based approach (for example police, health, education and social services having shared and consistent information about an individual or family), then digital offers the insights and tools, such as social media, needed to deliver it.

Digital makes the difference

Although disruptive, digital technologies can:

  • Create single digital case files which stretch from the first police interaction through prosecution, prison and probation. In this way, the system can be far more efficient and, more importantly, improve the citizen experience by enabling greater visibility of case progression for victims and witnesses.
  • Share open and accessible data between agencies to enable everyone to do their jobs more effectively, ultimately improving public safety and criminal justice outcomes.
  • Prevent crime from happening. For example, the use of affordable facial recognition technology among communities of local shops offers a means to alert each other when known shoplifters enter nearby premises. Also, police forces can empower citizens by offering access to online tools to report crimes or alert them to potential criminal behaviours.

Delivering the vision

Public safety leaders know that focusing on the tactical at the expense of the strategic results in ad-hoc solutions to specific problems and a failure to address systemic issues. By collaborating with partners to reflect on what is working today, where the challenges lie, what the possible alternatives could be and where the organisation should aspire to be in five or ten years’ time, public safety organisations can deliver a vision for the future that offers positive outcomes. What is more, the onus is on public safety organisations to hold themselves and partners accountable, with shared incentives so all parties are working toward the same goals. Once fully scoped, any programme of work needs to be driven by the business and enabled by technology.

Reforming the way that the criminal justice system works to be more effective and more efficient is a significant undertaking. Yet it is not a question of whether criminal justice services reform, but how and when. For any public service organisation anticipating future constraints, focusing on proactive approaches, data sharing and collaboration will create new ways to connect and transform to meet the urgent demands of tomorrow.

James Slessor, Managing Director, Global Public Safety, Accenture



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