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Punjab may transfer its IT-based anti-crime models to other units

LAHORE: Authorities in Punjab are trying to meet the pressing demand from other provinces, Azad Kashmir and Islamabad, for transfer of information technology based models and strategies it is fast adopting to fight crime, particularly terrorism.

“They are interested in emulating our sophisticated IT-based models and strategies. There have been requests from their governments and even the Sindh chief minister has recently visited our office for the purpose,” a senior official of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) told Dawn on Thursday.

The models and strategies have been designed by the PITB for law enforcement agencies and police, and the official said the board had obtained permission from Punjab chief minister to transfer its work to other provinces, Azad Kashmir and Islamabad to also help them modernise their crime fighting apparatuses and their ability to hunt down criminals and terrorists. “The service will be free of cost,” he said.

He said the ‘step one’ technology had already been transferred to Sindh, on a formal request by its chief secretary, and Azad Kashmir. Both were also provided human resource to enable them to raise their own staff in due course of time.

Islamabad had also been transferred the same technology that included complaint management, FIR registration and police record management system, he said, adding a similar request from Balochistan was pending action.

The models and strategies developed for law and order include biometric handsets given to police at pickets within Lahore and at the city’s entry points to identify criminals and terrorists.

Fingerprints are scanned by a handheld biometric devices and checked against a slew of integrated criminals’ databases for any record. Big Data is employed to verify the identities of people, identify patterns, track criminals’ movement and for analysis to predict any terrorist activity.

These biometric scanners are all connected to a massive databank integrating multiple databases such as the Criminal Record Office (CRO), Red Book, Black Book and 4th Schedule, comprising extensive records of all suspects and convicts in cases of terrorism and sectarian violence.

In the last few months, the traditional method of criminals’ record keeping has been replaced with digital biometric data. CROs have been established in all 36 districts of Punjab and are connected to a central database. This has resulted in dozens of criminals being caught through digitally matching the fingerprints from the crime scene with the digitised CRO database.

Digitisation of the CRO is part of a larger effort to develop an integrated criminal profiling system. This new profiling system combines data from CNIC, CRO, call data records, vehicle ownership records, land ownership data, driving licence, arms licence, urban property tax information, tenant information, hotel check-ins and prisoners data to enhance the surveillance and investigation capability of law enforcing agencies. This data is progressively being made accessible on handheld biometric devices.

Around 1,000 handheld devices have already been given to law enforcement agencies and are being used in all counter terrorism search operations. In the last eight months, over 704,077 verifications have been made using these handheld devices. The system will in due course also include data from police beat books and the traditional surveillance registers maintained by police, which were recently digitised across Punjab.

Big Data is proving extremely valuable, not only in identifying terrorists but also in preempting terrorist attacks by using predictive intelligence.

Similarly, a crime mapping system has been put in place in four Punjab districts — Sargodha, Faisalabad, Vehari and Lahore. Each instance of crime reported in the system is also geo-tagged by the investigating officer through an Android phone application. Modeled after the NYPD’s CompStat system, over 268,000 crime incidences have been geo-tagged to date. Geo-tagged crime data enables the police to do spatial analysis of the crime trends and plan patrols and check posts accordingly.

The PITB official said Big Data Platforms are increasingly emerging as a vital component of combating terrorism globally, with countries like US using analysis to predict and prevent terrorist attacks. Pakistan, among the worst victims of terrorism, now looks to Big Data to fight the menace.

Another important step towards automating the police operations is launching of the Centralised FIR (First Information Report) Information System. This system enables Punjab police to track the life cycle of an FIR across all 36 districts of the province. A total of 298,087 FIR’s have been made available online since the inception of the system. The system is directly contributing to faster and improved investigation.

A key IT intervention revolves around the development of a computerised data management system for police. The primary purpose of this system is to digitise all police records (Thana registers) maintained at the police station level to speed up lengthy investigation processes and provide efficient resolution to the citizen’s complaints. Currently, this system has been rolled out in all 709 police stations in Punjab.

As part of developing an effective counter terrorism strategy, PITB and Punjab police are collaborating to address the genesis of terrorist activity at the grassroots level to stop it from spreading. To this end, PITB and the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab police have developed a number of databases, each dealing with a particular aspect of terrorism and militancy. The most significant of these are; the 4th Scheduler, the Red Book and the Black Book.

The 4th Scheduler is a centralised database containing records and information of all suspects and convicts in cases of religious hate speech and sectarian violence across all districts of Punjab. The database also keeps track of their movement.

The Red Book is a database consisting of records and information of all proclaimed offenders in cases of terrorism carrying head money.

Similarly, the Black Book is a database comprising records and information of all POs in cases other than terrorism and carrying head money. In addition, there area a number of other databases such as an extensive record of all worship places and seminaries in Punjab, including their locations, current status and sphere of influence.

Punjab police have been connected to the information bank of National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), the digital domicile archives, the driving licence information, car/vehicle ownership record and citizen profiles compiled by various telecom companies.

The integration of all these criminal and citizen-centric databases in tandem with Big Data analysis tools would help in identifying patterns in terrorism activity, profiling terrorists, locating structures spreading terrorist ideologies, identify potential terrorists and even predict locations of future terrorist attacks, the official said.

As part of the National Action Plan (NAP), all madressahs in Punjab have been geo-tagged using smartphone applications. This exercise has produced a digital record of the students, visitors, including foreigners, in over 13,800 madrassas across the province. Likewise, an extensive exercise was underway for geo-tagging and biometric verification of around 256,000 Afghan refugees in Punjab, he concluded.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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