Solving multi-million pound crimes with ArcGIS

Clever use of spatial analysis allowed Durham Constabulary to interrogate over 350,000 points on a map and help solve major crimes. A worthy winner of The Importance of Where category, in this year’s Esri UK Customer Success Awards, the police force generated valuable new insights with ArcGIS to help secure 14 convictions. Simon Imbert, Esri UK’s Public Safety Sales Manager, reveals how it was achieved.

Durham Constabulary recently led a major national investigation into organised crime networks, responsible for stealing museum-quality rhino horn and jade artefacts worth up to £57m. Spanning four years and involving up to 600 officers, the police operation generated incredibly high volumes of data.

Telephone billing data, Automatic Number Plate Recognition records and potential offence locations, plus several other layers of intelligence, resulted in 360,000 points being plotted on a UK map. But making sense of this crowded map was a challenge.

At the beginning of the investigation, Esri UK and Durham Constabulary created some new visualisation tools, allowing the force’s intelligence analysts to see what was going on a lot more clearly and achieve new insights. By using ArcGIS Identify, analysts could highlight areas of concern, isolate the data further, test theories and reveal that something of interest had taken place. Durham also added another invaluable dimension to the visualisation by animating the data, revealing people’s movements over time.

The speed of this new approach meant answers could be given instantly to the investigation team, instead of having to go away and work on questions using spreadsheets, as the analysts had done previously. It was incredibly efficient too. Although Durham Constabulary believe it’s difficult to quantify the exact time saved, estimations of the cost/benefit are the equivalent of having to employ an additional two intelligence analysts.

Using spatial analysis to determine and explore relationships, helped the police to build a picture of what was going on and generate new lines of inquiry critical to the investigation. The end result was 14 men receiving custodial sentences totalling over 72 years, for their part in the multi-million pound heists.