Exploring the ROI of Digital Evidence Management: By the Numbers and Beyond

Save Time and Money OR Achieve Better Outcomes for Victims and Swifter Justice…
What if Police Forces Could Have Both?

Since the beginning of time, humans have weighed the pros and cons of decisions. And in modern times, we do the same for each business decision, each technology purchase too. What return will we get on our investment?

But return on investment (ROI) isn’t a simple calculation when it comes to a Digital Evidence Management Solutions (DEMS). Return on investment isn’t always just about the numbers. In our conversations with more than 16 forces across the UK, we’ve been able to learn a lot about how they’re benefitting from DEMS, both in terms of quantitative aspects (money and time saved), and from a qualitative perspective as well (e.g., swifter justice and improved outcomes). 

Of course, we’re learning more and more on this subject every day. Following a recent conversation with someone who had overseen the deployment of a DEMS at their force, I immediately reached for my calculator and started crunching numbers. The force in question had estimated that prior to having a DEMS, each piece of evidence received electronically – whether it be CCTV from a business, mobile/cell phone footage from the public, Body Worn Video from officers, etc., required (on average) one-hour of officer time to log, manage, in some cases format and add to a case. 

To place the volumes managed into perspective this equated to almost 12,000 digital evidence pieces received over a two-month period, or 12,000 hours of work. Extrapolating this further, it gets even more interesting.

Consider for a moment that the starting salary for a Constable in England and Wales is currently £26,199, which equates to approximately £12.55 per hour. Multiple those 12,000 evidence items (which each required an hour of the officer’s time) by this rate and you arrive at a very large number -- £140k. Now, annualize this cost and one can conservatively estimate the yearly expense of managing digital evidence to be well over three quarters of a million pounds. What’s more, this assumes that only new Constables are handling evidence (at a lower pay rate), when in all likelihood, more experienced Constables, Sergeants and Inspectors are involved as well. 

Of course, this is just one very simple calculation, but the same could easily be done other factors involved in managing evidence. 

Consider the cost of officers driving to pick up CCTV video for example (not just the cost of their time, but the cost of petrol). Every police force now feels the pinch of soaring prices at the fuel pump. So, reducing mileage not only makes ecological sense but economic sense as well. For example, Cleveland Police has been able to use DEMS to eliminate an estimated 4,500 weekly trips to collect CCTV footage. Now, officers simply request and receive all of that video footage electronically. 

This particular benefit is set to become even greater as forces leverage DEMS to proactively engage UK businesses in the fight against crime. Again, instead of going to pick up CCTV video at thousands of retail locations, thanks to DEMS, many UK forces are now able to remotely request and receive this digital evidence. By signing on to the program and registering their CCTV cameras in NICE Investigate, businesses are able to easily share videos with participating forces. This rapid information sharing goes a long way toward helping to solve and reduce crime.
Lancashire Constabulary is an example of one force championing this effort and reaping the benefits, along with business partners and communities. Currently, more than 9000 national and local UK businesses have been invited to register their CCTV cameras within NICE Investigate.

In spite of these fantastic numbers, I cannot stress enough that the lasting value of a DEMS is much more than cost savings. It’s impossible to assign a monetary value to the many other benefits that DEMS delivers – for example the ability to get faster remand decisions so potentially violent offenders are not inadvertently set free and able to further intimidate or harm victims.

I would also be remiss, given recent headlines about large numbers of officers leaving the job, to neglect to point out how DEMS can have a positive impact on job satisfaction, by relieving some of the work pressures that overloaded investigators deal with every single day.

At the end of the day, effective policing is all about motivating officers, optimizing resources, reducing costs, protecting and engaging communities, and delivering better justice outcomes for victims. DEMS can help police forces accomplish all of these things.