Artificial Intelligence to Help Solve Real Crimes In NSW
June 14, 2021
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by Snigdh Baunthiyal

Artificial Intelligence is helping make healthcare and education better. It is now also helping in solving crimes. New South Wales Police is using Microsoft’s Azure-based artificial intelligence and machine learning services for audio and video analysis. The police department entered into a $619,000 contract for Microsoft’s services with their work. The contract was established in April and is valid for ten months. Microsoft says that the ‘system has been designed with ethics front and centre, and in consultation with privacy experts with a particular focus on avoiding bias.’

Azura Cloud Project
The NSW Police is using artificial intelligence to create a cognitive feedback platform. The police department is planning on using cloud computing for more than 200 legacy systems. A digital evidence cloud will be a part of the system and help police process their work at a faster speed.

A new system that is being introduced is the Integrated Policing Operating System (IPOS) that will replace the state’s 27-year-old Core Operational Policing System (COPS). This is the system the NSW Police use for their main operational systems including arrests to forensic analysis. As part of the IPOS programme, the force will also equip every frontline officer with a ‘MobiPol’ mobile device, meaning that the new core system will be accessible on-the-go.

The Azure cognitive services have been trained over several months to work for the NSW Police. The services have dramatically shortened the amount of time taken to go through evidence. According to this report, police officers were able to “interpret petabytes of CCTV footage automatically and at speed to provide rapid access to leads that officers can pursue”.

The Azure service is also being used for transcribing police interviews. According to Microsoft, a 20-minute recording of a statement can take an individual police officer two or three hours to manually transcribe. With the Insights platform this is now completed in seconds or minutes with a good-to-great level of accuracy in the automatic transcription .

Chief information and technology officer Gordon Dunsford has said, “Using computer vision, [the solution] can search to recognise objects, vehicles, locations, even a backpack someone has on their back or a tie a gentleman is wearing.” He also says that the services have left police officers free for more frontline work.

Microsoft Australia’s national technology officer Lee Hickin has said, “Police officers have recognised immediately how this solution can speed up the analysis of evidence, accelerating justice and freeing them for important frontline work,” he said. Cognitive capabilities promise to play an increasingly important role in all our lives – and this a clear example of AI and ML being used for the good of the entire community.”

NSW has the largest police force in Australia with more than 22,000 members, including 18,000+ police officers serving 8 million people. The changes are being hailed as a ‘once-in-a-generation’ overhaul. The police force has been talking about using cloud computing and artificial intelligence for its core operations since 2020.

Broader Concerns Over Using AI for Police Work
There have been growing concerns over involving AI when it comes to solving crimes. An MIT report stated that using AI might further racial biases as machine-learning models are trained on the existing data. Whereas a recent Stanford research showed that ‘there is a significant discrepancy between who was stopped by police and the language police use—officers were found to talk to black people in less respectful ways.’

This is a growing field and, while Microsoft has committed to using fair practice with its new policing system, time will tell us of its success.

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