Real-time crime analysis to boost transport police after IT overhaul

British Transport Police is nearing the end of a massive IT overhaul in preparation for a move to new headquarters in Camden this November.


British Transport Police is nearing the end of a massive IT overhaul in preparation for a move to new headquarters in Camden this November.

The project has involved upgrading 1,600 PCs, retiring a mainframe and replacing networks.

The new systems will be able to provide real-time crime analysis, which will be vital in helping police respond to any future terrorist attacks on the UK transport infrastructure, British Transport Police said.

To enable the transformation, British Transport Police increased its IT headcount from about 25 people to 40 and embarked on a number of core IT upgrades.

In July 2004, British Transport Police's IT budget doubled to about £12m when it came under the authority of the police rather than the rail industry and was reclassified as a non-departmental public body. The increased IT budget enabled the force to gain ITIL accreditation, proving its IT service management competence, said Andrew Watson, head of technology at British Transport Police.

A key project was the replacement of 1,600 Hewlett-Packard Windows NT 4.0 desktop PCs with machines running Windows XP. British Transport Police used IT reseller DTP to carry out the PC refresh over a nine-month period.

Another major project was to build a nationwide fast voice/data IP network. It will switch this on in the third week of October. The network, from Global Crossing, can carry roughly four times the traffic at the same cost as before, said Watson.

The roll-out to London Underground was completed in June, Scottish operations were updated in July, and replacement work in the North East began at the start of August.

British Transport Police has 100 locations with computing facilities. These vary from one-man stations to the headquarters with 360 staff. Seven area HQs have up to 100 staff each.

British Transport Police is now wrestling with the huge challenge of setting up servers at the new HQ in Camden. It decided to retire a 10-year-old Fujitsu mainframe, used as the main machine for recording crimes. The force is currently moving data onto an Oracle database running on Sun servers, a system due to go live at the HQ before November, when staff move in.

British Transport Police is building a crime recording system and command and control centre based on the new servers.

"The existing crime recording system was originally designed as a data repository and for hard-copy output. In those days, mainframes were not designed to do real-time analysis, and now the demands are exceeding its capabilities," said Watson. "This system makes a huge difference in officers being able to log data and analyse crimes."

British Transport Police is also looking at expanding its mobile strategy, using PDAs, laptops and ruggedised military-standard tablet PCs. "When officers are in the middle of nowhere, you cannot give them an ordinary GPRS mobile," said Watson.

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