When the Force is Weak (in Tech)



As I write this, the media is busy with murders, and judgments in high
profile cases including Nitish Katara and Jessica Lal.

Most homicides in India are either not solved, or, less frequently, decided
in the courtrooms after decades.

The headline-grabber now is Arushi, the teenager murdered in the Delhi suburb
of Noida. The case was botched up by UP cops who violated every tenet of crime
scene investigation (CSI).

Why didnt the cops have access to a basic CSI checklist?

How can tech help?

I dont underestimate the task. The home minister has just promised Rs 2,000
crore to modernize 14,000 police stations. This will take years, for even if you
dump computers at the stations, training and getting the cops to use them is a
nightmare. One city alone, Mumbai, has over 40,000 cops in a hundred stations.

The National Crime Records Bureau, NCRB, has been around since 1986, to
empower the police with IT and criminal intelligence. However, other than its
fingerprint database and statistics, there isnt much that seems to be used by
police stations.

Prasanto K Roy
pkr@cybermedia.co.in

The NCRB gives out nifty stats: India topped the world murder charts, with
32,719 murders (double those in the USA) in 2007-08, when there were 5 million
crimes recorded. (The per-capita rate was lower than some other countries.) With
18,000 rape cases reported, India was third after the US (94,000) and South
Africa.

What would it take for a cop to be able to tap information and checklistson
his mobile phone?

Yesterday, I got an SMS saying my insurance policy had lapsed: to revive it,
I could send Mcheck Rs 10,000 to 56767. I did.

Five seconds later, three SMSs came in. Mchek said it had paid Rs 10,000, and
gave me a receipt number. ICICIBank showed a debit of Rs 10,000 on my credit
card, and the details. The insurance company said: Thank you for your payment
of Rs 15,000 for policy The impressive thing was not the mobility, but the
interconnect of five companies (incl Airtel and VISA), and a full payment in
five seconds.

Lets take good old traffic violations. What would it take to set up a system
where a cop SMSed a number plate, and instantly got all records for that car?
The tech is old hat. But at the back end youd need a database and a network
that connects RTO (transport) offices and police stations.

Or how about if a cop messages CSI and gets a crime scene checklist on this
phone?

Many possibilities: even without Rs 2,000 crore projects, basic, inexpensive
tech can radically alter policing. Just by making information available when
needed.

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