UK Investigators and national experts met recently to discuss best practice around vehicle telematics data. Carol Jenkins reports.
There is now greater awareness about the potential that vehicle data can glean in an investigation. This can range from data extracted from the infotainment around movement and contacts to driver behaviour.
National experts and local practitioners converged on Thames Valley Police Training Headquarters at Sulhamsted recently to debate the current investigative opportunities that can be gained from vehicle data.
Hosted by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), the day saw presentations from representatives from the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology, the National Crime Agency, academia and practitioners from forces.
There was a real impetus in the room to share best practice and provide a national voice for vehicle telematics-related issues. A vehicle telematics forum on POLKA is also gaining momentum, with a membership of 160 investigators using the forum to share best practice and make contacts.
The organiser of the POLKA forum, DS Chris Spinks from SEROCU gave a rallying cry to delegates to join together and continue to share best practice.
He also issued some words of caution that were well-received by delegates. He told delegates that they tread carefully when using vehicle telematics software and that while the software is useful in helping extract and analyse data that it wasn’t a panacea and should not be solely relied upon in an investigation.
He called on investigators to take a caution approach to using the technology and to take a measured approach when using it in an investigation.
DS Spinks also raised a further challenge relating to a potential risk investigators face if they dismantle or analyse a vehicle for its data. He said the main concern was the fact that the integrity of the vehicle could have been compromised and that could have a dangerous impact on the safety of the vehicle.
“We need to be asking ourselves ‘do we need to send the car to a manufacturer to put it back together’”, he said.
“If this is the case then how much is it going to cost as this will have serious implications in the way we work.”
He also headed caution to investigators when they are examining a car to think about issues such as if they open a door that they could alter or distort key data that could result in the case being compromised.
Paul Young, a digital media specialist from the National Crime Agency, told delegates that national guidance had now been produced to help them with their inquiries.
The guidance that is available through Digital Futures covered areas that include: how telematics can assist an inquiry, how to identify if a vehicle is fitted with telematics or tracking products and recovering of the vehicle.
It also looks at areas including tracking devices and how to gain information from manufacturers.
The guidance also includes details for national points of contact and other relevant reading that investigators might find interesting.
One of the delegates Noel Lowdon, a national expert in vehicle telematics will be running a two day vehicle telematics in conjunction with The Investigator.
The course is being run on February 27 and 28 at the Rothley Court Hotel, Rothley, Leicesteshire. It will feature input from an Audi technician.
The content will include an introduction to vehicle telematics that will explore what information can be extracted from a vehicle.
It will also look at evidential and crime scene considerations and a look at current guidance.
Mr Lowdon, a former police officer, will also be conducting a practical demonstration of a vehicle data extraction tool and provide tips and techniques about how to maximise data opportunities from the tool.