UCLan works with Preston police to pilot new technology

24 November 2017

Student volunteers test new mobile app

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has teamed up with Lancashire Police to pilot a new mobile app aimed at improving the way we work together with our communities.

Approximately 50 students studying undergraduate policing or Master’s degree in forensic science took part in the INSPEC²T project, a European project funded by the European Commission to develop an innovative approach to the concept of community policing. Lancashire Police is one of 18 agencies from eight European countries involved in the project, which aims to provide a digital platform that can be used as a real-time, two way, communication tool which will allow:

  • The police to get information out to the community
  • Members of the public to send in intelligence and information
  • The police to give real time information about on-going incidents in an area
  • Members of the public to report incidents to police by commenting or uploading photo or video from their smart phones

The three-day pilot, which took place in Preston, is one of five test areas across Europe and is the one of only two in the UK, the other being Belfast in Northern Ireland. The three other cities involved are Valencia in Spain, Engomi in Cyprus, and Groningen in the Netherlands. 

Students took part from Tuesday 21 November - Thursday 23 November.  Over the three days, several scenarios were played out in and around the University campus and the students used the INSPEC²T app to send in a report, pictures and videos of the incidents created.  They downloaded a test version of the app on to their own smart phones and had a brief training input on how to use it.

The scenarios focused on issues typically faced by students in the areas where they live, work and socialise.

Inspector Sue Swift who has led on the project for Lancashire Constabulary said: “The aim of the Preston pilot has been to build upon our engagement between the police, agencies and students and improve our understanding of issues affecting the student population, promote safety messages, and increase the sharing of information and intelligence.

“In Preston, and across the County, we are already actively using both social media and the ‘In The Know’ messaging service to engage with our communities with almost 700,000 people currently following Lancashire Constabulary across these channels.

“Being involved in this test will allow us to see if INSPEC²T could compliment this, providing an additional platform to enhance our ability to publish news and information, inform the student population about what we are doing and why we are doing it, appeal for help in solving crime and to find missing people, send out warnings and information to assist people in protecting themselves, encourage conversation, feedback and challenge where appropriate and arrange meetings with local officers.

"In Preston, and across the County, we are already actively using both social media and the ‘In The Know’ messaging service to engage with our communities with almost 700,000 people currently following Lancashire Constabulary across these channels."

Dr Carol Cox, Head of the School for Forensic and Applied Sciences at UCLan, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this exciting and ground breaking project with Lancashire Constabulary and its European partners, which is designed to enhance community policing across the European Union. Around fifty of our students are directly involved in the evaluation of the project, now in its final stages, which will contribute to the changing landscape of neighbourhood and community policing in the UK and beyond.”

Ian Cosh, Director of Resources for Lancashire Police said: “We are proud to have been able to invest in and be involved in this pilot from the very start which could potentially provide us with an option to build upon our established ways of engaging with and sharing information with our communities. As we are one of only two forces in the UK to be involved and I really keen to see it do well and am looking forward to the evaluation.”

Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: "Creating safe and confident communities means people being able to report incidents to the police quickly and conveniently while receiving regular updates about what the police are doing in their local area. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of local policing to deliver the best possible service to the public.

"This pilot will be looking at ways to deliver this through new technology and will build on the community engagement that the constabulary already do through services like ‘In The Know’. Hopefully it will lead to new ways for the community to maintain contact with the police to improve safety and reduce crime together."

Find out more information about the INSPEC2T project here.