The global health crisis has forced law enforcement agencies to adjust how they are handling criminal investigations. To help agency personnel through these difficult times, we will be producing a series of blogs that focus on how agencies can use technology as a force multiplier to continue to protect communities even when team members are forced to work remotely.

In this blog, we will provide an overview of how the pandemic has influenced global trends in criminal activities, how forces are transitioning as priorities shift, and what agencies can do to support team members who may be taking on different roles and working remotely.

Future blogs in this series will delve deeper into specific solutions to keep communities safe during these challenging times.

The Changing Crime Scene

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted law enforcement agencies worldwide in a number of ways. Here are some of the key trends affecting police right now:

Street crime is down: Across the board, police agencies are reporting significant declines in street crimes due to stay-at-home orders. The greater challenge for law enforcement has been how to enforce social-distancing ordinances.

While many cities have put fines in place for stay-at-home violators, many law enforcement agencies have been hesitant to issue citations to individual citizens, choosing instead to focus on larger organizations, such as business and churches, that refuse to comply. Drones and even air ships are being used to enforce social distancing rules in parks and other public-gathering areas.

Domestic violence is rising: Stay-at-home ordinances and lack of available police resources to respond to calls for help have resulted in a surge in domestic violence worldwide. In the last two weeks New York has seen domestic violence reports jump 15% while Germany is up 10% and France is up 32%.

Cybercrimes are growing: Concerns are rising about how to deal with fraud, scams, and hacking against the backdrop of the pandemic.

Crimes against children are up: With more children staying at home and using the Internet, crimes against children are on the rise.

Low-level crimes are not a priority: Response and prosecution of misdemeanor crimes and non-violent felonies has become a low priority. The sharpest declines have been in low-level crimes—traffic, narcotics, and petty theft—due to suspended enforcement. Vehicle theft is the only low-level crime type that has increased since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis.

Investigations are delayed: Detectives being reassigned to patrol duty and a rising number of officers forced to self-quarantine are causing delays in investigations.

Prisons are challenged: Corrections facilities are scrambling to contain outbreaks and will need to deal with the potential implications of early release for some inmates.

Shifting Priorities To Work At Home

As more officers and staff are having to work either from home or remote locations, agencies are changing their priorities.

Workloads are reduced: The new work reality is that daily workloads for ~50% of officers have been reduced.

Accessing systems is a problem: Social distancing has created a huge challenge for officers who need to access internal systems to do their jobs.

Case status and communication: With lab examiners working rotational shifts in their labs or at home, there are some concerns around effective handling of digital exhibits, monitoring and tracking case status, and effectively collaborating and communicating with other team members.

Online crime reporting is up: Due to priority shifts, understaffing, and distancing requirements, more agencies are encouraging citizens to use online crime reporting.

Six Steps To A Smooth Transition

Getting a game plan in place is key to successfully transitioning teams to a remote-work environment. Here are six simple steps agency managers can employ to guarantee a smooth transition:

  • Assess workloads and capabilities. What are your staff’s current skillsets? What training might they need to do a better job of working remotely? What is their availability for upskilling and learning?

  • Determine the number of personnel working remotely. What percentage of staff members working remotely will need access to your offices’ systems? How can you provide access while ensuring security and compliance?

  • Measure the impact on backlogs. What impact will staff members working remotely have on investigations and device-examination backlogs? Is it worth outsourcing to secondary labs?

  • Map out the shift in crime types. How have crimes changed during this crisis and what affect will that have on your agency’s response and digital intelligence requirements?

  • Put change management in place. How can you better prepare and support individual team members to work remotely? Do you have the right processes in place? Do team members have the right technological tools and training to perform their jobs? Do human resources and/or budgetary resources need to be redeployed to ensure success?

  • Reevaluate constantly. Change is constant so you should re-evaluate your plan weekly to ensure you are on track; maintaining your agility and ability to pivot quickly if conditions change, then adjusting as you go.

The Upside To Remote Deployment

Shifting to work-at-home duty is providing examiners with the opportunity to clear backlogs and gain new skills.

Examiners working in rotation shifts: In many areas, examiners are coming to their labs once or twice a week in shifts. They can conduct extractions in the lab then do analysis from home. Cellebrite is offering several licensing options to help customers operate more efficiently. For details about the licensing options read the Remote Licensing options blog or contact support directly.

Skill building is up: Many law enforcement staffers are using their work-from-home orders as an opportunity to learn new skills. Enrollment in online courses is up as many in the digital intelligence community seek certifications and deeper skills that will leave them better prepared when they are ordered back to their offices.

Now is the time for agency managers to encourage learning so your teams will be better equipped for the future once the current crisis abates and teams are brought back to restart more centralized operations.

The Road Ahead

Agencies need to shift to a new mode of operation to be successful through this transition period. Change must be evaluated on a tactical, operational, and strategic level to ensure that what you deploy today will pay even larger dividends in the future. Using this time of disruption to retool and train personnel will put your organization in a much better position to restart operations once this crisis has passed.

Future blogs in this series will take a more in-depth look at strategic areas and how digital technology is evolving to meet the current crisis while preparing law enforcement for the challenges of tomorrow.

We, like you, are now socially isolated and let’s face it, it is not much fun. So, we wanted to create a special daily get together where we could just have some great conversation and forget about the aggravation of being stuck at home.

Every day from 12:30PM to 1PM EST we will open a live video chat for the first 1,000 attendees. You only need to register once to join us on any day.

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