Automating conviction requests helps protect communities
More than half of police forces across the UK are currently using a form of automation to make requests for overseas criminal conviction records.
Known as the 'automated spreadsheet solution,' it's helping to ensure the process for obtaining such critical information is as effective and efficient as possible.
ACRO is the national police unit that processes requests from police forces and other law enforcement agencies for overseas conviction records.
We liaise with many countries across the world to return information which is then used in the UK to tackle crime and offending and protect communities.
Saving police time
When the request process was originally established about ten years ago, police teams had to complete a request form each time a foreign national was brought into custody.*
That first changed in 2014 when a sergeant in West Mercia Police came up with a system to automate the process. He developed an IT solution that regularly downloads data about non-UK nationals from a force's custody system.
The solution then assesses whether there's enough information to submit a request to the person's country of nationality.+
If there is, it will automatically generate a request to ACRO. If there's insufficient information, it instead sends the request to the officer in the case, highlighting what additional information is required.
Together with West Mercia Police, ACRO rolled out the system to a number of forces between 2015 and 2016.
In 2017, ACRO reviewed the system and found we could make it even more efficient by replacing the automatically generated form with a raw data file, reducing even further the time it takes to send a request.
ACRO Senior Manager Chloe Bowler said: "Currently there are a number of police forces in the UK using the automated system, saving them on average around 10 minutes per request, time that would otherwise have been required to manually complete a form.
"That's a lot of time, energy and resources saved when you think that between March and November 2017 ACRO received more than 70,300 requests for EU countries alone. Just over 9,200 of those were generated via the newer automated solution that sends a raw data file.
"We're also working with other forces to develop bespoke solutions that connect us with their case management and custody systems to generate automated requests."
Aside from the 'automated spreadsheet solution,' ACRO is also working with forces to develop similar connections between ACRO and force case and custody systems such as Niche and Athena.
If you're from a UK police force and would like to speak to ACRO about improving international criminal conviction exchange processes, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the attention of the International Development team.
Police forces currently using an automated spreadsheet solution:
Avon & Somerset
City of London
Devon & Cornwall
12th January 2018
* Police can still make an overseas conviction request for UK nationals brought into custody as well as people who've not been arrested but still subject to relevant proceedings. Such requests have to be completed manually. Information about many UK nationals convicted overseas will be proactively sent to ACRO through our proactive exchange processes. Please see International Criminal Conviction Exchange or our recent annual reports for more on this.
+ Different countries have different requirements on what information is needed to process a request. For example, some need place of birth, others both parents' names. For the details, please see our International Criminal Conviction Exchange community on POLKA.