Five years on and Download 2015
Thank you to so many colleagues for their hard work over the last week. Download has been a great success even if very wet.
It is five years ago this week that I arrived as Chief here in Leicestershire. I celebrated my arrival then by heading to Loughborough and going out on patrol to look at the campus, which was then being assessed as a potential Olympic base for Team GB. I decided to mark the anniversary by going out on foot at Download. Our policing of Download now reflected lots of work led by PC Kev Walker that followed on from his ‘Go Make A Difference’ project. Kev has gone international as a consequence, presenting in Europe on his work. It is a great example of making a positive difference to what we do.
We talk a lot about local policing, and how to link in at neighbourhood level. Download is a special neighbourhood. It emerges in a matter of days, and becomes the temporary, tented home for 80,000 people. The community is supported by an infrastructure familiar to us from more permanent communities. It was good to see familiar faces from the ambulance service, local councils and the Local Resilience Forum (LLR Prepared). It was also great to see the Sophie Lancaster Foundation on site working hard to spread their message on hate crime. We also work closely with private security, as we do in many other locations across the Force.
The community at Download is very diverse and comes from all over the world. Our social media @Downloadcops is key to communicating with that crowd. They had clearly heard about phone bungees as I was stopped every five minutes and asked for one! We ran out rather quickly, which is good. I was hugely proud of the team effort that I saw ongoing with colleagues from every part of the Force pulling together to identify offenders, and prevent crime.
Festivals offer a mixture of offending opportunities including vehicle crime, ticket scams, violence and drug dealing. In fact drug deaths have been a problem at some Festivals. It was good to see at first-hand how we worked to get upstream of these issues. I was also struck by how far some people had travelled to try and take criminal opportunities; one person that we intercepted had just flown into Luton airport before heading to Download.
The reaction of the Festival goers to our efforts was remarkable. Foot patrol was an absolute joy and, whilst we did help people and deal with lost property and people, my memory will be of selfies and hat swaps, of phone bungees and endless high fives. Fantastic! Neighbourhood Policing at its best.
Facial identification software at Download
During the Festival we have worked at how to make the Festival goers as safe as we can by using facial identification software. This has caused much interest and a lively discussion about human rights. That is an important debate. Private companies are looking very dynamically at how they can use such technology and there is a risk at the moment that law enforcement communities get left out of that work. We have developed a database that holds images of people that attend events such as Download intent in causing harm to others. These are organised crime groups that commit offences such as theft, fraud and drug dealing.
As it is a condition of entry, imposed by the organisers of the event to be photographed cameras have scanned the faces of the crowd on entry. Facial mapping technology assesses if that facial map matches any of the individuals on the database. That match can be passed to security staff who can than speak to the person and decide if they should or shouldn’t be admitted. It can also identify people who are wanted by us for offences. This all seems to be a sensible and proportionate approach to keeping attendees safe at the event.
My own face is one of the images on the database. I am struck that when I have (off duty) attended events in recent weeks at the Ricoh Stadium and Wembley I will have been on CCTV within the ground, having gone through a physical search at the entry gate. At the Ricoh I also featured in the TV coverage of the game on BT Sport. I felt that any intrusion into my human rights was something that I was prepared to tolerate as it made me, my family and friends safer at the stadiums.