Business

Mark Shields calls for a more forensic/technological approach to crime fighting

Friday, December 03, 2010    

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FORMER Assistant Commissioner of Police Mark Shields is calling on Caribbean police organisations to adopt a more foresenic and technological approach to their crime-fighting effort. As the managing director of Shields Crime Security Consultants Limited, he earlier this week hosted the three-day Caribbean, Security, Forensic and Technology Seminar 2010 at the Wyndham Hotel in New Kingston.

It is the largest crime-fighting expo of its kind in the Caribbean. Speaking with the Caribbean Business Report from the Wyndham Hotel, Shields said: "The idea for this seminar came to me about five months ago. I have worked with Scotland Yard in the UK for many years and during that time I was fortunate to collaborate with Andy Beet and Dave Johnston, who are with us this week. In Jamaica we managed to arrest, and eventually convicted Matthews Lane don 'Zeeks' largely as a result of good forensic evidence and technological applications.

"This seminar is about introducing Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean to other areas of technology that will support crime prevention and assist crime detection. We don't want to simply focus on the police force but, rather, the wider security forces and also the private sector. It is always a shame to keep having to go to North America or Europe to become au fait with state-of-the-art crime-fighting technology. What we have done is brought it here to the Caribbean and made it accessible."

Andrew Beet is a retired police officer with 30 years' service with Britain's Metropolitan Police. During his career, he served mainly in East and North London and across a broad spectrum of specialist posts. In May 2000, he was selected to head the Telecommunications Intelligence Unit at Scotland Yard. Beet has been involved in a number of high-profile investigations in Jamaica and other overseas countries, including the UK. He also spearheads Torch Training, established in 2007, primarily to assist in the development of a Communications Intelligence Unit in Jamaica.

"The importance of a communications intelligence unit cannot be underestimated. We have seen the importance of this kind of work in the UK, where every major investigation comes from this unit. Every criminal has to communicate and the job of the Jamaica Constabulary Force is to establish how they communicate and then look at how that can support their prosecution. We are now examining cell site analysis, and there is now that capability at the JCF. Today there is no need to bring in expertise from abroad because there is capable ability with this technology right here in Jamaica. Training is very important and we saw it as vital to put something back into the community. Intelligence starts at street level and then is used strategically by people like Mark Shields to prosecute criminals."

For years Shields has championed the use of DNA testing and other technological advances in crime fighting to better assist the JCF in its fight against criminal activity in Jamaica which costs the country five per cent of GDP. In this regard, Beet sees forensics as vitall. Both Shields and Beet see CCTV, DNA and communications as the three most powerful forensic tools and they happen to underpin most of the prosecutions in the UK.

Cellular telephony has added a new dimension to criminal activity and by extension crime-fighting techniques. Both in Trinidad and Jamaica, the state is gaining increasing authority to tap cellphones in the interest of national security. Here Shields sees it as important to retrieve cellphone data to support prosecutions and that requires the necessary technology. He is also inviting discussion and debate on this contentious issue. Here he is supported by Dave Johnston, a career detective with more than 17 years' experience in specialist postings in the Metropolitan Police, with a strong background in using communications data as primary evidential material in the UK and abroad. He addressed the seminar on accessing cellphone data in helping the police with their investigations. He is an active lobbyist for mandatory data retention by communications service providers. He has played a part in the work that led to the European Data Retention Directive.

As presently prevails in Jamaica, there is a degree of mistrust that exists between law enforcement agencies and the communications industry and Shields believes that those barriers have to be broken down. "If there is a mobile phone issue, then I have to go to Digicel to ask them for the solution because they hold the answer," said Beet. He further added that he was involved in the 'Zeeks' case, which involved bringing in people from abroad to handle the forensic aspects. Today that is not the case as Jamaica can do that kind of work right here and that is due to the training received.

"I am delighted by the success of the seminar. The Minister of National Security, Dwight Nelson, was very impressed with the technology on display this week and members of the private sector were enthused by what the exhibitors had on display. This was the first seminar and expo and we will do it again next year," said Shields.

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