England

Seven police forces in national 'joined up' crime fight

Seven police forces are to pioneer a new information sharing system which promises to speed up crime detection and identification of suspects.

Forces in Essex, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Kent and Suffolk have joined Project Athena.

They are contributing £32m to the scheme, but expect costs to fall as more forces join.

Athena is hailed as a new 'one-stop' IT system to improve front-line policing while saving time and money.

The seven forces have signed a "national framework agreement" and are hoping others will join to help reduce overall costs.

Essex Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle said: "We will be better able to investigate crime, support victims and reduce threat and harm to vulnerable people.

Different systems

"Athena is a key tool in the fight against crime, ensuring that we see the complete picture relating to offenders.

"Information will be linked as soon as records are created, thus a full picture of a person or location will rapidly be built up and can be viewed across all forces using the system."

Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock said: "This is a cost effective way of delivering IT support as opposed to individual forces paying separately."

Until now, police forces have largely managed data on offenders, suspects, victims and incidents on different systems at a local level.

This made it a challenge to share information quickly with other forces.

The single Athena IT system aims to link investigations, intelligence and information about defendants across all member forces.

With this information police officers and staff could build detailed pictures of suspects and of crime and incident patterns.

Project Athena is a collaborative project delivered by Northgate Public Services.

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