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The National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) said it wants an e-forensics project, aimed at speeding up the examination of ICT used by criminals, to be available to all forces from September.

Over the past seven years, the number of electronic devices examined by technology experts in police force hi-tech crime units (HTCUs) has grown nationally by 300 per cent.

A six-month pilot of the e-forensics project with five forces in the East Midlands resulted in a 90 per cent increase in the number of computers and mobile phones examined, according to the agency.

Currently the process for police officers to request an examination of a computer or mobile phone varies from force to force.

The NPIA said that it helped to set up a pilot which enabled police officers to contact one of the technology experts from the five force HTCUs involved in the scheme.

The officers would have their examination requests assessed before being sent to their force HTCU for investigation.

Part of the process involved assessing how best to examine the device by prioritising against several factors, including the threat posed by the offender, the seriousness of the crime and risk to the victim.

According to the NPIA, the pilot resulted in standardised examinations, reviews and investigation across the Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire forces.

Deputy chief constable Paul Crowther, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on e-forensics, said: "With the emergence of technology impacting on many crime types, the police service has recognised that all police forces were spending an increasing amount of time, money and staff on interrogating electronic devices and mobiles phones.

"This project has dramatically reduced the time taken over each device and has also made a massive impact into case loads."

Paul Ridgewell, criminal justice analyst at Kable, said: "This initiative conforms to the wider agenda both of the NPIA and its successor organisation, the new police ICT company 'newco', in terms of promoting standardised procedures and systems.

"But it raises a question as to whether this important role will be carried out to quite the same extent in future, given the current level of uncertainty about newco's role and the extensive structural changes taking place in the police sector."

This article was originally published at Government Computing.

Government Computing covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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