Technology can help solve crime

BY JACOB K MUTISI

Zimbabwe’s  commonest crimes include robbery, petty theft, vehicle burglary, home invasion, and smash-and-grab vehicle break-ins.

The Zimbabwe security services have made a lot of efforts to make society as safe as possible but the nation’s crime remains prevalent. Zimbabwe’s answer to these kinds of crimes is technology; our hidden weapon. Universities in Zimbabwe have students who are getting educated in Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) with the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) leading the way.

These kinds of developments in AI and ML mean that technology has a growing role to play in upholding the law. This is good news for those who have been victims of crime. Technology is going one step further and helping to predict crime to prevent it from happening in the first place. Technology can assist in crime-solving by providing a more efficient way of working, that allows investigating officers to review all the relevant evidence quickly. Integration is the most efficient way to update crime data and search AI systems for the correct evidence to use for prosecution.

Nations around the world are at different stages of deploying both AI and ML tech. Dubai, for example, is charging ahead, having already introduced its first robot police officer. Through the robot’s in-built touchscreen, the public can report crimes and even pay fines.

Dubai aims for 25% of its police force to be robotic by 2050, but police officers in Dubai should not worry, the initiative is all about bolstering the force, rather than replacing them.

Zimbabwe needs a central database which will encompass the registrar general’s office, police, Zimra, CVR, immigration as a source of information to fight crime. The internet of things (IoT) era is allowing our law enforcement agencies to fight and prevent crime like never before.

The sharing of data from a central source and multiple sources across different industries and sources allows unprecedented insights into where crimes are likely to take place.

Hitachi’s predictive crime software, for example, uses AI to quickly sift through huge amounts of data from a previously unimaginable range of data sources such as CCTV cameras, public transit maps, weather reports and even social media feeds. It then predicts where crime is most likely to take place in a given area.

What makes this tech unique is the machine learning element, which means the data alone is completely responsible for calculating the predictions, taking away any human participation about what information is most important to predicting and preventing crime. From this data and predictions, heat maps are then created which pinpoint crime hotspots across cities, allowing resources to be deployed to prevent crime, rather than reactively fighting crime.

Internationally, some police forces are even using AI technologies to assess the potential threat of an arrested suspect to society and if they should be kept in custody or released on bail. Police officers in the United Kingdom for example in Durham are using an AI-enabled technology called the Harm Assessment Risk tool to determine this. This is a tool that is trained to make its decisions based on data collected by the Durham Constabulary, as well as a suspect’s gender and postcode. Like most technologies this is a system still in development.

Above that, social media platforms are increasingly being used to fight crime and pursue investigations.

They offer a means for our law enforcement agencies to share information with the public. They also enable the police to engage and involve communities in new and potentially transformative ways.

The use of social media in global crime-fighting is extensive. Common uses include the identification of criminals, evidence sources and submission of distress reports. Police departments around the world are still exploring expansive uses of social media to support crime investigation and prevention.

In Zimbabwe our forces are only displaying wanted criminals on the zrp.gov.zw and in the newspapers.

There is now a need to have a page titled Zimbabwe’s wanted criminals which will be the source of all the wanted criminals in our land.

Law enforcement agencies now need to introduce, create and implement measures for police-citizen engagement AI, ML and social media platforms.

This will help improve the relationship between our law enforcement agencies  and members of the community.

Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd and the current Chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology(ZICT), a division of Zimbabwe Institution for Engineers (ZIE).