Brent’s top cop on the use of technology to fight crime

Starting today Chief Superintendent Matthew Gardner, Brent Police borough commandeer, will be delivering a weekly message to Times’ readers online.

This week he is focussing on the advantages and disadvantages of modern technology with the fight against crime.

“The Commissioner recently invited technology experts to a fair at New Scotland Yard to see what was on offer for policing. Over the past few years my officers have had to become increasingly technology savvy as criminals are frequently becoming more hi-tech. Many advances in technology have a knock on impact for policing, for example, the increase in social networking and prevalence of mobile phones has led to a rise in calls to police but also in harassments. Now that virtually everyone carries a camera/video camera in their phones, the number of opportunities for members of the public to capture crucial evidence is huge. Investigation of fraud, theft and possession of drugs with intent to supply often require a degree of technical expertise in order to obtain the necessary evidence. The London riots of last year highlighted the need for Police to become more involved in the social media forum. The borough has now been on Twitter for sometime and we have over 1,000 followers. It will also come as no surprise to you that we monitor the media sites for signs of trouble, or forthcoming events with potential to require police resources.

“The job of the average street cop has also been affected; officers carry mobile fingerprint devices, PDAs with access to the police national computer and sophisticated radios with GPS. I would say that having seen some demonstrations at the technology fair, many people unwittingly publish numerous personal details about themselves. I advise all my officers not to put their personal details onto Social Networking Sites or at least use the privacy controls. Five minutes on the web can often give you information about a person’s friends, family, address, contact details, personal schedule and habits. This is enough information for any motivated criminal to target that person personally and/ or financially. The best advice is not to put anything online that you would not be prepared to tell a stranger face to face. Likewise, protecting our children from these threats is paramount. Children are very competent from a young age at using technology to communicate, it is important that we ensure that they do not become easy prey for internet trawling criminals.”