Self Evident makes it much easier for people to act as good citizens if they witness a crime. It enables them to record an early account and supply it to the police - along with any photos or recordings they take - at the touch of a button. It means they don't have to wait around at the scene or hunt around to find the right officer. The app offers a practical and simple alternative to the inconvenience and effort required that deter so many witnesses from doing the right thing.
Self Evident lets victims record an early statement of what happened and its effects. They can attach photos of the damage caused by a burglary or of the injury sustained in a street robbery. Again at the touch of a button, these can be submitted to the police. The app should be of particular use in domestic violence, hate crime or stalking or other cases where repeat victimisation is a real risk. This is because it enables the victim to send validated evidence of an incident to the police or build a dossier of several incidents.
Whether the app is used to report crime, to supply photo, audio or video evidence or to record a witness statement or early reliable account, there are three ways in which Self Evident will reduce the grief and stress that witnesses and victims have to endure. First, the app provides people with a convenient and secure way to contact the police. Secondly, where their evidence is validated, there is less need for witnesses and victims to be called to attend court. (This is because when independent witnesses come forward, it can mean the criminal pleads guilty, a victim is spared the grief of reliving the traumatic experience in court and that an innocent person goes free.) Thirdly, where a victim or witness does need to attend court, if they have recorded an early account or statement, Self Evident means their experience will be less of a trial and will not descend into a one-sided memory test.
Cutting paperwork and waste
Self Evident means the form filling and wasted time that frustrates many police officers need no longer be inevitable in their work. Reports sent via the app have all the key details to enable the force to prioritise and action the investigation. Officers can use the app themselves to take statements at the scene of a crime from a victim or witness, so avoiding the need to set up and attend an interview where the officer is expected to write the account out in long hand.
Where photo, video or audio records are supplied these will be pertinent and reduce the need for officers to trawl through hours of low quality CCTV footage. Where a statement is made soon after the event, the evidence is more reliable and less likely to be challenged so saving court time and adjourned hearings. And with Self Evident establishing secure communication, there's less risk of a witness or victim's message getting lost or misplaced in the call centre queue at peak hours.
With police forces facing serious budget cuts, Self Evident also has the potential to release millions of pounds to front line policing. In London, over half of all crimes are reported between 6-8pm and this makes efficiently managing this critical, initial part of police work incredibly difficult when telephone call centres are the dominant contact point as details of each incident, its effects, its location and contact details have to be logged manually. While phoning 999 is the best way to handle emergencies, this is not the case for most crime reports. In these cases, where a victim or witness would like to report a crime and supply evidence from their smartphone, there's every reason the police should facilitate this and now they can.
Where the public do choose to engage with the police in this way, it will release resources. Figures from the Mayor’s Office for Policing & Crime suggest it costs much more than £60 to log a crime report. (In 2011/2 the call centres, front desks, central communications and contact management units that received 5 million calls and passed on for action 815,000 crime reports in London cost £200 million. At £60 a report, these 815,000 crime reports would have cost less than £50 million). With a report via the app containing the key information, Self Evident is set to allow the police to secure significant savings while improving the service to the public.
And where reports via the app also supply validated evidence, the savings will be even greater.
The Self Evident solution
The app and service are here, now, and so Self Evident avoids any risk of a troubled or delayed public sector IT project. There are no up front costs to be found to design and develop the app and no ongoing costs to be met, beyond those of the reports. In terms of security, it is every bit as safe as the ACPO service (www.report-it.org) which enables hate crimes to be reported on the internet.
Additionally, Self Evident is not simply a crime reporting app: it has many other applications and can be used to simplify life and streamline work. Fortunately, most of us only suffer crime once or twice a decade and so we suspect it's unlikely many people will want to have a phone app solely for reporting crime which will only be used rarely and will remind them of or alert them to what is a damaging and distressing experience. The app's free trial enables people to recognise its other benefits, and to see how easy it is to use, how secure it is and how valuable it can be in a variety of situations. For these reasons, Self Evident is exceptionally well placed to harness the benefits of smartphone technology in the fight against crime and usher in a fresh way that enables the public to better engage with the police and the police to better serve and protect the public.
The app was designed, developed, launched and has been run for over a year without any call on public funds. However, in the light of the substantial benefits and savings the app will bring to public funds, we believe police forces should contribute towards covering the costs of police reports in their area.
Where any profit is generated from police reports, this will go to support anti-crime charitable work in the areas where reports were made. To find out more about this, please visit the Robert Peel Trust.