Using wearable tech to tackle crime

By Steve Norris, Managing Partner and O2 public sector champion – Criminal Justice and Emergency Services

The correlation between alcohol and crime is well documented. And proposed solutions – like a minimum price for alcohol – have proved difficult to implement and enforce.

That’s why the recent announcement that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) have extended their wearable sobriety tag programme will come as welcome news to many in the criminal justice and emergency services sector. The tags are set to be part of an extended pilot programme across London, following the programme’s early success, and have the potential to help save police time and resources.

The wearables detect alcohol levels in sweat, with the technology automatically alerting authorities should an offender be detected as having breached their abstinence order.

Initial pilot had 92% success rate

The scheme was based in four South London boroughs. It found that over 18 months, 92% of the 113 people issued with the tags did not drink. And around half of those surveyed after their tag was removed said that it had improved their health by forcing them to stop drinking.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson commented on the initiative, saying, “alcohol-fuelled crimes put a huge strain on frontline services, costing the taxpayer billions of pounds each year.”

Cutting crime, while cutting costs

The MoJ has said that the expanded pilot across the capital will cost £850,000. This might seem like a large upfront investment, but looking at the statistics from the Institute of Alcohol Studies and the encouraging results from the initial pilot, I would argue that it’s a necessary one. This simple piece of wearable tech doesn’t won’t just save the criminal justice and emergency services time and effort, it could also reduce crime rates. And there is a knock-on effect across the public sector, with the health impacts also good news for the NHS. That really is an example of doing more with less.

What particularly excites me about the initiative is that the technology allows for a proactive approach to law enforcement, and puts the needs of people first. That’s not just the offenders, police and courts, but people like parole officers, who will be aware of their client’s alcohol consumption before they possibly reoffend. It allows everyone to better allocate resources and plan ahead.

There’s also an emphasis on rehabilitation, allowing offenders to take control of their lives and their health. This, for me, is what the philosophy of ‘people first’ is all about – using technology to make a measurable difference in people’s lives.

Have you heard of similar programmes to curb crimes elsewhere? How have they worked? I am always interested in discussing the ways in which technology and ICT can help provide safer communities. Contact me directly on 07802 280 287, and visit our website to see how you can put your people first.