Prior to taking up this role, he was working as the Head of the Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit, with responsibility for ensuring a robust force response to crimes against vulnerable people and those who target them.
In this interview, Jon illustrates his involvement in the project CESIUM, the importance of a collaborative approach in combating child exploitation, the challenges and the key objectives in leading the way for the protection of the most vulnerable.
How can we combat child exploitation more effectively?
Child Exploitation is a crime where victims are targeted and preyed upon for their vulnerabilities, with victims often unaware this is happening until it is too late. The offences associated with this level of criminality are some of the most serious and I have always committed myself to ensuring we have the best response possible; supporting victims, pursuing offenders and preventing further offences. In establishing our processes, working with our partner agencies across Lincolnshire, I have sought to find the best way to identify and manage the risks to the vulnerable.
In recognising the broad spectrum of risk factors and information that can inform any potential risk and appropriate response there is a need to move outside of conventional practices, which more often than not, require human effort. My role has been to seek opportunities for law enforcement to lead the way in developing a risk assessment tool that can be used to manage all of the available data across partner agencies to leap us forward in the fight to protect those who are the most vulnerable from harm.
As such I have sought to work with Trilateral Research to develop their machine learning and artificial intelligence platform to lead the way in working to tackle vulnerability, with a focus on Child Exploitation.
Why did Lincolnshire Police partner with Trilateral Research and NWG in project CESIUM?
In working to tackle such a complex crime type as Child Exploitation there is a need to ensure we have subject matter experts and a shared vision.
Trilateral Research being a research and development company provides the scientific know-how and the understanding of the impact of this type of crime, via their research work. It is, therefore, a natural fit not only for identifying the requirements for the tool development but also for our need for a more collaborative approach.
The NWG Network are subject matter experts, with a large network to support our work. Their guidance is of paramount importance to ensure we are considering all of the triggers and tools that can be used to identify the risks and methodologies we should be taking in our overall approach.
In choosing to partner with Trilateral Research and NWG it was apparent that we are all committed to collective working to produce a tool that can be developed to a localised level, but at the same time understanding the wider potential for law enforcement and our partner agencies.
What are the top challenges in child exploitation that you are trying to resolve for Lincolnshire and perhaps the wider UK by partnering in project CESIUM?
Due to the complex nature of Child Exploitation, there are a number of triggers and varying factors that need to be considered to recognise where someone is vulnerable or where there are offenders who could be targeting vulnerable people.
As such there are a large number of data pools that can be drawn upon for assessment of risk and to then enable a partnership response.
Included in these data pools is professional judgement and the need for mature assessment, but with the large number of potential victims and the need to ensure that there is no bias in how a response is to be progressed, one of the main challenges is how the information is managed and a clear risk assessment made. In flagging the risk this is to be passed into a Multi-Agency meeting format for professionals to discuss and plan an appropriate response. However, it is this initial identification of risk that is the most challenging.
If the risk was to be a single case then this could be risk assessed collectively within our partnership arrangements; however, with rising demand and improved recognition of this crime type, the challenge is how this can properly be assessed in a consistent manner that leaves no one at risk of harm.
How has the project gone so far?
The project to date has been really positive. The coding work for the Project CESIUM platform is progressing to a tangible outcome, with joint development work meaning improved tools already for us all to work with. There has been significant hard work from all involved to ensure we can not only create a risk-based tool but that it is as effective as possible.
From the work undertaken and the commitment from all involved in the project, I am confident we will have the creation of a tool that will ultimately keep people safe and lead the way in protecting the most vulnerable.
What does success in this project look like to you?
Given the nature of these offences, any person protected from harm through our work would be a huge success. This said given the gravity of these offences across the whole of the country (and internationally) the production of a risk-based tool that can interface with all of the different information platforms to highlight those of highest risk is the ultimate goal.
Project CESIUM will enable a system-based approach to identifying risk, where currently this relies solely on human effort which is limited in capacity and not as efficient as is needed in making any such assessment.
Success will be having a system that maximises the use of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to identify those people deemed of highest risk of harm, those at highest risk of causing harm and/or those areas where offences are being committed, enabling a fully informed Multi-Agency meeting process to review all of the information and to work collectively to tackle Child Exploitation.
For more information please contact our team.
Jon Betts, Practice Manager – Public Sector at Trilateral Research