Many police forces across the UK and Scotland are using pioneering software to check offenders’ for online suspicious behaviour.
Future Digital, provides software that monitors all activity online and offline. The ground-breaking software detects any risk of an offender re-offending or breaking any court order. This software has mainly been used for detection of child sexual grooming and abuse, but could also be used in the future to help detect offenders at risk of radicalisation. The software is at minimal cost to forces and could help reduce staffing requirements in the long run. It also does not interfere with offenders’ privacy as it only captures banned activity. Evidence is held securely and can be checked remotely by the police in real-time.
A need for technological change
When the police vision 2025 was launched in 2016, it recognised the need to bring policing into the modern technological age. Until then, the growth in online crime had not been matched to the expansion of technological capabilities of the police. Whilst criminals were finding more and more ways to use technology to offend, the police were lagging behind. The resources were simply not available to keep up with the technological developments. This vision document sought to bring about change. It looked to equip police with the necessary tools for new technology, and to revolutionise policing in the UK,
Why is the software needed?
One of the major areas of concern for police, is the massive growth in online child grooming. With the privacy and sharing options created by the online world, a crisis has unfolded. It is incredibly hard for the police to manage. With many ways to circumvent detection, it has made it difficult for police to track offenders. There is also a real issue that education initiatives for children in schools have not been working. Many children choose to ignore the advice given and think that they are immune from danger. The London CSE Protocol June 2017 stated that:
A growing culture in teenagers, blamed by the easy accessibility of the world online, has meant the internet is ripe for sexual groomers to take advantage. Danielle Powell, acting detective sergeant in the SET commented in a recent Times Educational Supplement article,
With children accessing the internet at an ever-younger age, the need to create a safe and secure environment has become more and more difficult. Childline has reported an increase of 44% in police recorded online child sexual abuse. 5654 crimes were recorded in 2015/16 with the youngest reported victim being only 3 years old. The government published an Interim Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in April 2018. It stated that the number of online sexual abuse referrals increased from an average of 400 a month in 2010 to 3500 referrals a month in August 2016.
Change in Law
Last year, the law changed to make online sexual communication with a child a criminal offence. This has helped the police to create an early intervention strategy towards online grooming. Rather than having to wait for something more serious to happen, police are now able to bring online sex offenders to justice sooner. It has resulted in a huge growth in arrests in this area and solutions are needed to deal with these offenders effectively and tackle the risk of re-offending.
The government has identified the need to transform policing in the area of online grooming and has made available £20 million from the police transformation fund. In the Reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect summary of consultation (March 2018), it is stated,
“We have prioritised child sexual abuse as a national policing threat and are investing in specialist policing capability to ensure children are better protected….Specifically, £20 million has been provided to help combat child sexual exploitation and significantly increase our capability to target the online grooming of children.”
The Government has also set-up The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse, funded by the Home Office and led by Barnardo’s charity.
The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse
The centre was set-up in 2017 to create a multi-agency response to child sexual abuse (CSA), to create a National Policy on CSA informed by recent research, to create clear understanding and awareness about CSA, and to create a clear assessment of how recent changes and improvements to policy have changed the scale and nature of CSA. Their child exploitation perpetrator briefing, released in February 2018, mentions a conducted survey in which,
“Participants pointed to the need to adjust the legal response to emerging issues. Linked to this theme were the issues of managing internet access for detected offenders, and what monitoring solutions are available.”
Early Intervention and prevention
The government ‘Working together to safeguard children document’ published in March 2015 identified
“Where an adult offender is assessed as presenting a risk of serious harm to children, the offender manager should develop a risk management plan and supervision plan that contains a specific objective to manage and reduce the risk of harm to children.”
A couple of ways offenders can be monitored and rehabilitated are through charities such as the Lucy Faithfull foundation and technology companies such as Future Digital.
Not all sex offenders may be able to be rehabilitated, but an increasing number try to find treatment. The Lucy Faithfull Foundation is committed to rehabilitating offenders and supporting offender’s families, helping families of victims of child sexual abuse, and working with frontline workers such as the police, to ensure children are as safe as they can be. The charity website reported in a press release in April 2018 that there has been a surge of people approaching them for help to stop,
The charity runs a ‘Stop it Now’ helpline and many news stories exist of offenders approaching the charity for help.
New Technology Solutions Required
It is positive that many offenders are looking for rehabilitation, but it is crucial for all those deemed a risk in society to be monitored for any future risk. Bobbies on the Net, published in August 2017 stated,
With those under court orders finding methods to circumvent the police, police forces across England and Scotland are using a ground-breaking approach to check offenders do not re-offend.
Advanced Monitoring Software
The technology created by Future Digital, involves software being installed on offender’s digital devices. This software known as FD Enforce, allows police to track offender’s digital activity 24 hours a day, with all concerning information being stored in a secure remote console. Offender managers are able to access this information from any device using their secure log-in. The safeguarding software works through clever online and offline activity monitoring, encompassing text entered or viewed during a session. For instance, if suspicious words are typed into chat or email, or correspondence containing them is received, a screen capture will be taken. Another example is if an offender were to load an inappropriate filename or folder, the software would also make a capture of this. FD Enforce uses intelligent pre-grading to highlight captures against risk libraries such as profanity, prevent and pornography. It can send out graded alerts to the offender manager in real-time. The data capture process is entirely silent which makes it difficult for an offender to know when and how a capture is created, making it harder to subvert it. In addition, the software has a ‘heartbeat’ so it would be clear if it has been circumvented.
Acceptable Use Policy
Offenders are shown an Acceptable Use Policy that they have to agree to every time they use their device. This customisable policy acceptance is stored as evidence in case it should be needed. This gives the offender a clear chance of rehabilitation while steering them away from re-offending. The Acceptable Use Policy text can be modified or switched off per offender if required. For example, if they have other family members who use the same device.
The government has recognised online grooming and CSA as a major problem for society and have created funding, changed the law in sexual online communication with a child, set-up government consultations and created The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse. Initiatives are looking into prevention and early intervention in this area whilst also looking at how education can be more effective in schools. Police have recognised technology can benefit this area by using intelligent monitoring for offenders. This technology is advancing all the time and will soon be available to use on all digital devices including phones. As the software becomes more and more intelligent, it will reduce the amount of time needed by police to look through the data provided. This software is just one of the ways the police force in the UK is being revolutionised through the use of new technologies.
Future Digital offers an Intelligent Monitoring Solution for education and police. For more information, click here.
FD Enforce Offender Management Software is used for the proactive management of Offender’s computing devices.Managing the internet use of subjects is challenging with previously available technical solutions like blocking software often circumvented using just basic technological knowledge.
FD Enforce is an e-safety monitoring and behaviour management solution designed to support organisations in their responsibility to protect the public from online predatory and sexualised behaviour. It enables full monitoring and reporting as well as managing adherence to an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).