Technology & Policing over the next 15 years (part 2)


One of the assignments on the 2010 Strategic Command Course ( was to look at future technology trends and their impact on policing. I have developed some of this thinking in this post which is part two of two– let me know your thoughts. Part one can be found at

Demographic and crime pattern changes

An increase in high security compounds – gated communities – especially in new developments in up market areas. There may be a push for parish councils and other locations to be able to restrict access to non residents to their village or street at certain times of the day, enforced by private security. This could simply push problems elsewhere of course, and communities that are commercially dependent on a low crime level (after all the cost of the security firm has to re recouped from higher property prices) are more likely to ‘hide’ crime and deal with it internally rather than report it to the police.

There is also a strong likelihood of a reduction in ‘physical’ crimes such as burglary and muggings as technological solutions (e.g. ‘bricking’ mobile phones remotely to make them worthless) become more common. There will be a matching increase however in virtual crimes such as identity theft, counterfeiting (especially in areas such as medicines, environmental goods and food) and internet scams. In the UK the number of domestic burglaries has fallen by 45% over the last decade, and this may be a sign of things to come. Virtual crimes –crimes committed wholly in cyberspace over virtual goods – have become front page news in recent months, and as well as theft recent media stories have included assisted suicide and murder (in the real world). How the police adapt themselves to these new areas is a challenge. Some may argue that virtual crime (where it does not spill over into real world violence) is not a good use of the police’s time, but with some virtual economies rivalling real ones, and many people making very good livings trading entirely in virtual goods, then this will not be a strong argument in years to come.

Against this we may also see a trend to increasing domestic violence and abuse, as the current trend to single person households falters, and families increasingly return to an intergenerational mode of living, as was the norm in previous generations. The pressures on land, increasing property prices and the current global downturn will all increase the average size of households, and in some cases the pressures of living together will spill over into crime. Domestic violence against older members of the household will also increase as people live longer, and residential care becomes less affordable as the population ages.

Relearning ‘old’ skills

Increasing reliance on technology, increasing withdrawal from society as we currently define it and a desire to retreat to the local will all lead to a reduction in social and emotional ties with others. There are implications for society in all of this of course, but also implications for recruiting into police forces and other organisations that require people focussed communicators. We will have to teach new recruits the art of conversation, of saying hello and of talking to people, in the same way that we now talk of training people to use Twitter, e-mail and new media appropriately. Those, of course, will come naturally to probationers born in 2005 and joining the police in 2025, whereas talking to strangers face to face may not.

Easy Policing

For those that still crave the face to face service from the police, there may be an option to pay for it – the so called Easy model after the EasyJet approach of offering basic service, with all extras chargeable. Some UK councils are already exploring this model, and I predict that police forces will not be far behind if it is a success.

The end of privacy

The loss of secrecy and privacy will have implications for society as a whole, but also for the accountability of public sector organisations. Miniature cameras everywhere, monitoring and communication of mistakes and errors will mean that organisations will be seen as guilty until investigated (and, depending on how independent the investigator is seen, possibly still guilty even then). The days of HMIs coming from within police ranks may be limited. Organisations may have to reinvent themselves as they are perceived as ‘ethically bankrupt’ – in a similar fashion perhaps to how the RUC was transformed into the PSNI.

Security via robotic delivery?

Robots are already being used buy the military on a day to day basis in Iraq, and several forces have experimented with pilotless drones for surveillance of demonstrations etc. As the technology improves, the possibilities for this technology will also increase – along with privacy concerns. Ultimately we will be looking at systems that can predict of intent through facial expression / time of day / location data. Similar systems are already in use at fast food drive throughs, where time of day, make and year of car can give a better than 50% prediction of the food orders…


(Much of this post was inspired and informed by Richard Watson’s excellent book History of the next 50 years and website )

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