Norfolk Police could use computer to decide burglary investigations

image copyrightullstein bild/ Getty
image captionThe algorithm is based on 29 factors, including 'solvability, and makes a recommendation on whether the burglary should be investigated further

A computer programme could be used to analyse burglaries to decide whether they should be further investigated.

Norfolk Police is trialling the system, developed by an academic working with the University of Cambridge, to assess each case reported in the county.

The algorithm uses data from thousands of burglaries and is based on 29 factors including "solvability".

The force said all cases would be overseen and the programme's recommendations could be "overridden".

According to the Mail on Sunday, the force had "quietly closed" hundreds of burglary cases on the basis of the likely outcome of an arrest.

But Ch Supt Nick Davidson told the BBC the results of the trial, which is expected to end in October, would be evaluated before any decision was made on future use.

"It's quite right that a police force seeks to use and explore new technology to help itself be better, to see if it can become more efficient and effective," he said.

"In every other walk of life we see algorithms being used in some really challenging set of circumstances, and we seek to do the same here."

'Take investigation seriously'

He denied officers would end up following the advice of the algorithm "blindly", adding the force had lots of checks and balances to ensure this did not happen.

"We take the investigation of burglary very seriously, they are hugely impactive on the victims of crime," he added.

People who have been burgled will continue to be dealt with by a member of staff in the first instance, who will decide what follow-up is required.

After officers have been to the crime scene and filed a report, the computer programme could be used to decide "whether or not we've got a realistic prospect of solving this crime," Ch Supt Davidson said.

According to police, less than five domestic burglaries take place per day in Norfolk, one of the lowest figures in the country.

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