The World Health Organization estimates that about one in three women globally have been victims of physical and/or sexual violence. This violence ranges from domestic assault to kidnapping and human trafficking, and it creates physical and psychological trauma for victims and their families and leaves a permanent scar on communities. Unfortunately, such incidents are not always given the same investigative attention as murders, drug trafficking, or organized crime. The data that might serve as evidence in prosecuting them is often siloed as well, split between police, social services, and health records, and more. Relevant authorities must increase collaboration and harness lessons and technologies used in other investigations to identify and prosecute perpetrators and provide support and recovery services to victims. As part of its mission to make society safer, SS8 supports the UK Home Secretary’s Enough campaign to mitigate violence against women and girls (VAWG). The program targets a broad range of assaults, including street harassment, coercive control, unwanted touching, workplace harassment, revenge-porn, and cyber-flashing. In addition to a vigorous public-information campaign, Enough makes VAWG a strategic policing requirement, which places it on the same footing as terrorism, organized crime, and child sexual abuse. That prioritization sets the stage for law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to apply their most sophisticated processes and tools to the problem. Methods developed to prosecute racketeering, organized crime, and other complex cases can now be brought to bear in VAWG investigations, including greater collaboration among those entities with the evidentiary data to build and prosecute cases and data fusion technologies that expose patterns of life to identify suspects. SS8’s MetaHub helps authorities collect and enrich these disparate data sources in a single platform, then leverages powerful analytics and intuitive dashboards to help analysts visualize information in new ways, revealing insights that help stem the tide of abuse.
Confronting the Reality of Violence
Investigating and prosecuting VAWG crimes is made more complex by the fact that they are often perpetrated by trusted individuals. The most common scenarios involve assault by intimate partners, which may be even more hidden from the public eye than other crimes due to society’s hesitation to violate a couple’s privacy. Attacks by police and other authorities have also been reported, as in the high-profile case of Sarah Everard, who was abducted, raped, and killed by a serving London Metropolitan police officer as she walked home in 2021. Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth of the UK National Police Chief’s Council said, “The last year has seen some tragic and shocking incidences of violence against women and girls. There have been abhorrent examples of abuse or misogyny by police officers.” Since then, we’ve also seen the case of Sabina Nessa, a primary school teacher also from London who was killed by a stranger while walking to meet a friend. And in early 2022 in Tullamore, Ireland, 23-year-old Ashling Murphy was killed when out for a run in a public place in daylight hours. These factors show that VAWG is widely being perpetrated in plain sight. In addition to isolated cases of misogynistic violence, larger-scale violations also occur, including exploitation by criminal organizations. Yet the digital evidence that can help illuminate these crimes is often hidden, spread among disconnected data sources in varying regions and jurisdictions, making it impossible for technology solutions that increase the efficiency of investigations to detect the relevant trends and patterns. For example, records of emergency services or medical visits, crisis-line calls, youth services, social media posts, and surveillance video may all help reveal patterns of behavior that are useful both to detect and to prosecute these crimes. Repeated evidence of drug overdoses might reveal an exploited victim being coerced and manipulated – in which case some LEAs, including those in the UK, have the authority to pursue criminal cases even if no charges are pressed. Repeated hospital admissions – especially to different hospitals in varying urban and rural areas – can draw connections between seemingly small incidents that might otherwise be written-off as common accidents. In the UK, one can be reported as a Vulnerable Person – someone at risk of abuse or harm due to life circumstances – but this designation is often overlooked unless it occurs twice in the same Constabulary. Bringing together such data and combining it with other lawfully intercepted communication and location information of victims and perpetrators gives LEAs greatly enhanced capabilities to solve VAWG cases and prevent future abuse.
Refining Digital Investigation of VAWG Crimes
An analysis of UK law enforcement recently found a significant number of siloed databases in use within each of the 47 constabularies in the UK, and the situation is similar in other countries. SS8’s decades of experience breaking down such data siloes for investigators plans to make the Enough campaign even more robust in its ability to stop VAWG. SS8’s MetaHub acts as a data fusion layer that ingests these multiple sources so they can be accessed, queried against, and contextualized as a single, coherent whole. It provides investigators with sophisticated analytics that highlight patterns of events that might otherwise escape notice. Important findings are visualized in dashboard views that permit analysts to drill down into next-level details on demand. The nature of VAWG crimes is that they too often go unreported, largely because of victims’ fear and shame. Using data-driven approaches honed by organized crime investigators to flag patterns that indicate such incidents is therefore one of SS8’s and the Enough campaign’s shared goals. These best practices can be as simple as correlating police reports across jurisdictions, or as sophisticated as combining data from police, hospitals, schools, social services, and other sources. MetaHub enables LEA analysts to easily create sophisticated queries against massive, distributed data sets, including multi-queries that search for specific sequences of events within a given time period, and can even schedule queries to run automatically. These capabilities make it perfectly suited to the work of the Enough campaign.
SS8 affirms the need for better protection of women and girls against violence, and that goal is in clear alignment with the company’s overall mission to make society safer. Constantly refining investigators’ ability to find clues and evidence within vast silos of unrelated data, our MetaHub solution provides unrivaled access to data fusion and analytics capabilities that resolve VAWG crimes and protect society.
About David Anstiss
David Anstiss is a Senior Solutions Architect at SS8 Networks. He has been with SS8 since 2015 and has significant experience in critical network architecture technology and advanced data analytics. He is responsible for working with both intelligence agencies and Communication Service Providers (CSPs) around the world and is instrumental in helping them transition to 5G, defining system requirements to meet regulatory compliance. As a member of ETSI, he represents SS8 to ensure the adoption of cloud-native infrastructure is met with industry best practices and to guarantee that compliance of lawful interception is maintained. Learn more about David here on his LinkedIn profile.
About Simon Patten
Simon joined SS8 following a 30-year career with British Telecommunications Plc in the UK. For the majority of this time, Simon held senior sales and general management positions working with the defense, security and law enforcement agencies. He led teams selling and delivering a diverse range of solutions, including major national and international networks, computer network defense, and other security-based capabilities. Simon holds a BA in Business Studies and gained his MSC as a Sloan Fellow of the London Business School. You can view his LinkedIn profile here.
About SS8 Networks
SS8 provides Lawful Intelligence platforms. They work closely with leading intelligence agencies, communication providers, law enforcement agencies and standards bodies. Their technology incorporates the methodologies discussed in this blog and the Xcipio® and Intellego® XT product portfolios are used worldwide for the capture, analysis, and delivery of data for the purposes of solving criminal investigations.