Cambridgeshire police is leading the way nationally in sharing information on cross-border crime with other forces, according to a new report by the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Addressing the Police and Crime Panel, Jason Ablewhite said: “Organised crime changes every day, and while policing has a long history of collaboration it is well known that forces from one county have been notoriously bad at sharing information with their counterparts in another.
“The criminals have been taking advantage of this and, while they move cross-border with ease, they know that in most cases the information will not be passed back and forth. But all of that is now in the past with the introduction of the new ‘7F system’.
“Cambridgeshire police is leading the way nationally with the sharing of information across borders in the latest method to fight crime in rural areas.
“Despite reports in the press to the contrary, I can now say that the ‘Athena’ IT system is operational and working across several forces providing unparalleled strategic collaboration covering a vast area of the country – much of which is rural, like Cambridgeshire.”
Athena is a police intelligence and case management system used by multiple forces – Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk, Warwickshire and West Mercia.
It was introduced early in the decade in the move to improve information sharing within and between police forces.
According to the report the intelligence function has been working successfully, but the case management is difficult and slow to use and has often been taken down while patches are added to the system.
Mr Ablewhite added: “Is Athena where it should be? Well, no it isn’t. It represents £1 million of public money and has undoubtedly had its problems in the past – but it is getting there.
“The problem is that each individual force – much as they had done with their own information for decades past – added unique solutions of their own to the Athena system, complicating the way it deals with data, slowing it down and eventually stalling it.
“We pride ourselves in Cambridgeshire on having some of the keenest computer minds in the world, so it will come as no surprise that a police IT company has come up with a solution to get the system working.
“The ‘7F system’ or ‘Virtual HOLMES’, as it is known, is a system used to collate information regarding major investigations allowing multiple forces to load share data even at times of peak demand.
“The best news is that 7F could end up saving Cambridgeshire police as much as £2 million a year.
“Our officers are finally able to use all the information available to them and see information generated by other forces in ‘real time’, allowing us to keep up with and catch the criminals at their own game.”