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Science, research & statistics

Police science and technology

Science and technology play a vital role in modern policing.

For example:

  • police use forensic science to more accurately detect crime, convict offenders and exonerate the innocent
  • hi-tech communications and information systems enable officers to spend more time engaging with people and less time tied up with paperwork
  • cutting-edge science and technology are used in organised crime and terrorism activity – police need to stay one step ahead

Science and technology working to fight crime

Every day our police force relies on an increasingly wide range of sophisticated information and communications technology, forensic science and other technologies to serve the public.

Here is a selection of important scientific and technological tools that form the backbone of the police system:

Police National Computer (PNC)

The PNC has evolved from a record keeping service to a sophisticated intelligence tool. It holds extensive data on criminals, vehicles and property, and is accessible in a matter of seconds through over 30,000 terminals across the country.

National fingerprint and DNA database

The UK leads the world in using DNA technology to identify criminals. Our DNA database stores over 3.4 million DNA profiles with 5.2% of the population represented. The database provides the police with an average of 3,000 matches a month, in 2004-5 there were over 40,000 matches. (Source: Police Information Organisation (PITO))

Road traffic law enforcement technology

The police use a wide range of technologies to curb traffic offences like speeding and drink driving including breath analysis devices, bus lane enforcement cameras, immobilisation devices,
light signals devices and speed measuring devices.

A 200-strong team of scientists and engineers work for the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (new window) (formerly the Police Scientific Development Branch). They pioneer new devices to fight crime and prepare the forces for emerging technology-based threats.

Science and technology in the police force: the future

The Police Science and Technology Strategy is a five-year plan for addressing technological and scientific needs in the police force. It was presented for the first time in 2003 and has already reached several significant milestones including:

  • expansion of the national DNA database - the majority of the known active criminal population is now registered
  • national rollout of Airwave - the new digital police radio communications service has been introduced to all forces on time and within budget
  • extended use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition – to 23 forces
  • trialling the INI (IMPACT Nominal Index) – a database used to check applicants for police contracts and employment for custody, intelligence, domestic violence, crime and firearms involvement

We’re currently working towards establishing a secure portal so victims can track cases online, and facilitating shared access to case file information for central criminal justice organisations.

Home Office websites