Northern Constabulary polices the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, an area of some 31 000 square kilometres with a population of approximately 300 000. Its Dog Section, part of Operational Support and based in Inverness, comprises a Sergeant and five Constables. Each handles a German Shepherd General Purpose Dog and a Springer Spaniel or Labrador Specialist Drugs or Explosives Search Dog. Their role includes assisting with searching and locating missing persons (including mountain rescue), tracking/searching for criminals from crime scenes, high-profile proactive mobile and foot patrols, and carrying out drug and explosive searches.
Traditionally, Northern Constabulary dog handlers marked rough search areas and proposed routes on paper-based Ordnance Survey maps. They then used GPS devices for navigation, often through disorientating dense forest. As factors such as wind speed and direction also had to be taken into account, this could be a complicated and difficult process.
The Dog Section wanted to use existing technology to improve the accuracy of search data, thereby increasing efficiency.
The Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA)’s geographical information system (GIS) team used the force’s existing technology along with unused software and data licenses to overlay different scales of Ordnance Survey digital data, provided under the One Scotland Mapping Agreement, with proposed search areas and paths.
Out in the field, the handler can now accurately follow the outline of the proposed search and ensure they are within the defined area. On their return, the data collected can be uploaded to the GIS for analysis.
The solution has proved so successful that other forces are looking to implement similar systems for their dog units.
- Greatly-increased accuracy as a result of projecting field data onto search areas to identify the exact locations already or yet to be searched.
- Cost savings and improved operational efficiency by replacing the time-consuming manual markup of maps with instant analysis of digital data.
- Better analysis of information gathered using waypoints to attribute data about evidence finds, allowing both visual and spatial analysis to help draw a detailed picture of what was found.