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Derbyshire Constabulary uses WITNESS simulation software from the Lanner Group to improve effectiveness of police processes


The effectiveness of the criminal justice system has been a major concern of successive British governments. The current government is no exception; with only one fifth of reported crimes now resulting in their perpetrator being brought to justice, it has launched “Narrowing the Justice Gap”, a new framework for long-term improvement of the system. The ultimate aim, to bring 1.2 million offences to justice by 2005-2006, sets a tough challenge for the UK’s police forces who, in order to help achieve this, need to work smarter, maximizing efficiency on all levels. Derbyshire Constabulary has been using Lanner Group’s WITNESS simulation software for several years in a wide variety of areas. The police standards unit, Derbyshire Constabulary and Lanner Consulting have been working in partnership to apply this approach to the forensic science process - the process of identifying perpetrators of crime using scientific methods, primarily fingerprints and DNA. The Key objectives of the work were to improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of the forensic process by:

  • Identifying opportunities to increase the numbers of identifications and detections
  • Recommending changes which decrease the amount of time taken across the process

The first stage of the project was to understand the current processes via traditional process mapping techniques and the use of data mining technology. WITNESS Data miner enabled the team to link together disparate data sets for the first time to gain a better understanding of cause and effect. This data analysis allowed the team to diagnose areas in which force performance was weak, and in areas in which it was strong, and to feed back an initial list of ideas for improving the process. The key deliverable of the project was a generic simulation model of the whole process. Via an easy to use front end the user can define the parameters and processes of the scenario they wish to test. The WITNESS model then runs a year in the life of the scientific support process and returns data on process timings and resource utilizations.

“Using WITNESS enables us to look at the dynamic interactions between the separate parts of the process,” says Paul Bates, Simulation Project Manager. “It has allowed us to quantify the impact of proposed changes without the risk associated with live implementation.”


The recommendations made by the team will make a significant improvement to the average time taken to obtain a detection via scientific methods, providing potential to take repeat offenders off the streets earlier. Additionally, some of the ideas generated during the data-mining phase have led to the development of a performance-monitoring tool. Not only does this allow consistent reporting of National Statistics at the touch of a button, but allows the scientific support management team to identify variation amongst SOCO performance and track the impact of improvement initiatives. 

This will increase the numbers of identifications obtained (and therefore detections) at little cost, over and above the increase in detections, which will occur due to the step change in the identification to detection process, which has been implemented. “The generic capability of the solutions provide ease of communication to end users and senior managers as well as facilitating roll out to other forces,” says Paul. “Overall the project has made a direct contribution to operational police performance”. Indeed, the generic model has already been successfully implemented in two other forces with more to follow.

A further benefit of its wider deployment is the sharing of best practice between forces and the use of benchmarking to focus improvement activities. 

“The recommendations have enabled me to re-structure my business processes,” says Superintendent Paul Rouse, Scientific Support Manager. “It has allowed me to scientifically identify key areas to be re-engineered to maximize efficiency and will continue to make a major difference to both crime reduction and crime investigation”.

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