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Sharing Data in Order to Fight Crime

Daphne van Hesteren

A previously published opinion piece1 argued how data sharing in the healthcare sector could result in better decisions for treatment options, advance medical research and would allow for a better patient management. After reading this, I was thinking that the same line of reasoning holds within law enforcement. Data sharing could result in more accurate arrests, improve crime analytics and ensure successful prosecutions. After some investigation, I discovered that I was not the only one who thought this.

Sharing law enforcement information has significantly improved across Member States over the last years. This is because the European Commission and EU agencies provide several tools2 to facilitate the exchange of information between national law enforcement authorities. For example, the Schengen Information System (SIS)a widely used information-sharing instrument that law enforcement authorities can use to consult alerts on wanted or missing persons and objects, both inside the EU and at the EU external border.

By sharing (non-sensitive) data with other police departments, law enforcement institutions can provide more transparency, promote trust among colleagues and citizens and gain new insights from the data. Most police departments are locked by regions, while criminals are not. Sharing data about criminal activities can help with finding patterns using big data analysis3 (sometimes referred to as ‘predictive policing’4). This could, when resources are distributed accordingly, discourage and reduce crime. Also, data sharing could help to increase understanding and trust between law enforcement and citizens, which is currently a big issue in countries across the world. With a transparent police department, citizens can more easily understand how the police works to ensure safety and fight crime

However, the achieved high volume of information sharing potentially leads to new problems. Is the data infrastructure and data quality within law enforcement designed to help policemen find what they are looking for and find it quickly? I can imagine that the abundance of information is not stored in a structured way, since the information is dispersed over many regions and countries. How do you make sure that everyone stores the data in the same way so that everyone understands it? Afterall, we are talking about the out-on-the-streets policemen and not data scientists.

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Sharing Data in Order to Fight Crime
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