Dutch police, tech company team up to show how technology keeps NL safe

Forensic investigators at the scene of a murder
Forensic investigators at the scene of a murder. (Photo: Politie)

The Dutch police teamed up with technology company The New Web (TNW) to showcase how the police are using technological developments to breathe new life into cold cases, track down suspects faster, and keep the Netherlands safer in general. 

TNW approached the police early this year. "At first sight it seemed to be a strange fit", TNW founder Patrick de Laive said about the collaboration on LinkedIn. "After a few conversations and brainstorms it became clear that the police would actually be a great partner as a great part of police work is transferring to a digital landscape."

Together the police and TNW launched - a "pop-up brand" where they discuss projects the police are working on in which technology is used to help the police in their daily work.

In one such project, the police are using ever improving DNA forensic science to create profiles based on samples found at a crime scene. This is not done to prove that a suspect is guilty of the crime. Instead the police are using these profiles to rule out suspects who did not commit the crime, saving time and resources. This approach to DNA profiling, helped the police reopen the cold case rape and murder of Milica van Doorn in 1992. By determining that the perpetrator was of Turkish descent, the policen asking Turkish men in the area to give a DNA sample.

The Netherlands Forensic Institute is also working on determining how old DNA traces found at crime scenes are. Proteins change under the influence of external factors, like light and temperature. By interpreting these changes correctly, investigators may eventually be able to tell whether a DNA trace found at a crime scene was left there a week before the crime was committed, for example.

Another innovative project - the City Pulse Project - is currently being tested in Eindhoven's nightlife area Stratumseind. It involves a network of sensors that measures noise level and even emotional tones in people's voices. In this way the police can intervene before a fight breaks out, for example. This technology is not being used to save personal data, Leon Verver, the director of the Dutch Institute for Technology, Safety & Security (DITSS), said to TNW. "We are not listening in on people or record what they're saying. We filter the total data spectrum for the information we need - that's all."

The police believe that the City Pulse Project could eventually also help prevent burglaries - by picking up sounds made by a burglary tool, for example - and find underground cannabis farms, by picking up the sounds made by lamps and vents. 

In another project, the police are for promising leads and clues. "We're teaching the machine to do forensic screening", Jeroen Hammer of Q, a division of the Dutch police focused on finding new approaches to old cases, said to TNW. “The goal is that the AI can read cold cases we’re currently digitizing, and decide which ones contain promising evidence that could lead to solving the case.” The cold cases are then ranked according to 'solvability', giving the police a clear indication of where to use their limited resources. 

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