The Self Evident App will be suspended from 21st November.
Since its launch in 2013, Self Evident has been the only app that enables victims and witnesses to report crime, record statements and send evidence to the police. Though the App provides a public service, save for its hate crime pilots in London and Sussex no public funds have contributed to the costs of this free service. For the reasons explained below, the costs of developing and running the App have been met by its workers, a handful of individual investors and some small grants from enlightened charities.
Following keen support from frontline and senior police officers and a glowing report from the Met’s Continuous Policing Improvement Command, it seemed in January 2018 that the Met Police would adopt and promote the Self Evident App to help it to catch criminals, support vulnerable victims, engage witnesses and free up officers’ time. Unfortunately, in the face of continued opposition from its Public Access Board, the Met told us last month it was going to discontinue use of the App. Regrettably this leaves us with no option but to suspend the service as we cannot raise the private funds to continue to run it.
Four of the consequences of the App’s suspension are
- Victims and witnesses will no longer be able to send the police photo and video evidence, something Theresa May called on police chief officers to enable in January 2016;
- Nearly one third of App users say they would not have reported the crime without the App;
- Frontline officers will be deprived of a tool they value and which in London alone would free up over 100 officers a year; and
- Victims and witnesses reporting crime digitally will now have to use an online form that takes 20 minutes to complete. This will particularly disadvantage the young and the poor many of whom can only go online using a smartphone.
As of now the App, which has never been promoted by the police, has:
- 27,000 registered users
- delivered over 3,500 crime reports to the police, including reports of gun crime, child abuse and terrorism
- provided the police with 5,000 items of digital evidence - photos, videos, audio
- a unique validation feature which makes App captured evidence ‘good to go’ for prosecutions in the words of the Crown Prosecution Service
- secured convictions in court based on app-captured evidence
To help people understand this decision, the Briefing here sets out the reasons the Met has given us. The Briefing includes exchanges with Met Commissioner Cressida Dick and with Deputy Asst. Commissioner Mark Simmons whom she asked to review the Met’s initial decision that it saw no use for Londoners using apps to report crime or send the police evidence.
A savings paper we produced estimated that if the Met made use of the App it could free up over 137 front line officers every year and save £4m annually. After the Met reviewed the paper, we were told we had overstated some savings and understated others, so acknowledging that the App could make substantial efficiency and other savings. Despite our requests, the Met has not released its review of the savings that the App will unlock.
Regrettably not. As explained here, almost all our dealings with the police on the App have been with and through the Met Police and one half of crime reports and evidence submitted via the App are sent to the Met. If you believe the service should continue to be available outside London, please email your MP and ask him or her to call on the Home Secretary to intervene.
The reason that the App has been funded privately goes back to February 2012 when the Met Police intervened to stop the independent grant funding of the charity Witness Confident. It did this because it could not endorse Witness Confident’s initiative to highlight and reduce street violence in London with an interactive witness appeal map. As the then Commissioner, Bernard Hogan Howe, had encouraged the development of the witness appeal map and had given it its name, StreetViolence.org, he was unhappy to learn the Met had stopped the charity’s funding. He sent in a top team to see if they could make use of the witness appeal map. As the team described it as “a stonking example” of the type of IT police officers need, it proposed the Met fund a year long pilot of the StreetViolence.org.
As, by that time, we had an early version of the Self Evident App working, we showed it to senior officers at the Met. They were amazed, saying it was five years ahead of its time and that it hit on everything the Met knew it should be doing. The Met decided that rather than support the witness appeal map, they would focus on the App and on 11th July 2012 they – backed by the Commissioner - formally recommended it should be funded with £500k for a one year pilot.
This decision was reversed on 2nd August by Simon Byrne, then Asst Commissioner at the Met and presently fighting charges of gross misconduct as chief of Cheshire Police. He wrote that the Met was unable to invest such money in a proof of concept and wished the charity well. As the charity was running out of funds – something the Met had caused and knew – workers, friends and trustees decided to set up a social enterprise, Just Evidence, to raise the funds to run the App.
When we told the Met this was our plan, they spent the following nine months telling us we could not launch the App for unspecified legal and technical reasons. In June 2013 Self Evident was launched in London after the Met said it had had legal advice there were no valid objections to the App and that the technical issues were no longer a bar.
N.B. The Met had in fact been scoping and developing their own crime reporting app from August 2012 which, although it was ‘green lit’ for a launch late in 2013, has never been released. While the precise costs of this have not been published, the Met has confirmed that it wrote off £4.1m of bespoke software it had spent on developing an iPad app for an unsuccessful trial so its officers could take evidence, record witness statements and file crime reports digitally.
If you are unhappy about this decision, please email your MP and ask him or her to call on the Home Secretary to intervene.