New money-saving IT initiative sees regional police forces collaborating to cut crime

ESSEX Police Authority has signed up to a new ‘one-stop’ IT system which will help officers to identify criminals more quickly and cut crime.

So far seven ‘early adopters’ have signed up to Project Athena – Essex, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk – making it the largest ever collaborative police IT project.

It is aimed at improving frontline policing and saving each force time and money.

Officers from all forces will be able to access information on offenders, regardless of their location.

Essex chief constable Jim Barker-McCardle said the project will “significantly improve the lives of people in the communities we serve”.

“We will be better able to investigate crime, support victims and reduce threat and harm to vulnerable people. It is a key tool, ensuring that we see the complete picture relating to our offenders,” he added.

Each force will pay a total of �32 million during the lifetime of the agreement but the cost to each will drop as more forces come on board.

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Essex Police Authority chairman Anthony Jackson said: “The collaboration will be a powerful tool in the fight against crime. It brings not only improved performance, but also a significantly lower administrative cost.”

Until now, police forces have largely managed data on different systems at a local level. Athena however, will be a single IT system giving officers and staff detailed and up-to-date information on offenders, suspects, victims and incidents across geographic boundaries.

The system will also reduce bureaucracy, time and money, by decreasing the need for ongoing management of multiple IT systems.

Project Athena, which will be delivered by software supplier Northgate Public Service, and is due to be implemented towards the end of 2012 – with Essex Police the first to go online.