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Using artificial intelligence to find hidden links for crime prevention

Captions: As a senior analyst at Singapore Police Force’s Analytics Research team, Ms Chong Kai Ru finds “hidden links” in crime reports. PHOTO: FRENCHESCAR LIM

By Tan Shuwei 

When 30-year-old Chong Kai Ru joined the Police Intelligence Department as a civilian officer eight years ago, she never envisioned that technology and data science would become intrinsic to her current position as a senior analyst in the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Analytics Research team. 

The applied mathematics major – whose interest in crime prevention was sparked by watching local TV programmes such as Crime Watch, Code Of Law and C.L.I.F. – recalls that it was her posting to the crime pattern unit that gave her a chance to work more closely with crime data, as the division analyses crime data on a national scale. Before that, her first posting was with the Strategic Analysis Division. 

“What we do at the crime pattern unit is find patterns within multiple crime reports, some of which may contain ‘hidden’ links. For example, two reports that don’t seem to have a direct connection may be are linked by other reports,” she says.

Ms Chong explains that she leverages insights drawn from these data patterns to develop solutions and strategies that can help to detect and prevent crimes.

Developing a breakthrough in anti-scam software   

Ms Chong began to expand her knowledge in data science and technology in 2016, when she was sponsored by the SPF to pursue a Specialist Diploma in Business Analytics at Temasek Polytechnic. The one-year course also taught her to code. 

“This was also when my job scope evolved to have a greater emphasis on data science. With the implementation of both computer analytics and coding, the Crime Pattern Analysis Division is able to streamline and automate tedious data collection processes, especially for scam cases” she says. 

According to Ms Chong, analysts would typically extract information from police reports manually and then try to draw links between the cases. Driven by a desire to make this process more efficient, she helped to create an anti-scam software using her knowledge of coding, data science and computer analytics. 

With discussions and input from other crime-solving teams within the SPF, Ms Chong was able to develop a better understanding of how to design a software that could benefit each department. 

“That was a breakthrough in our anti-scam efforts. With the software, we are getting the computer to automate the analysis component for us. With just a click of a button, we can identify suspicious data points that might be connected to the case,”
she explains.

The anti-scam software became a game-changer for the SPF. Pulling together information and patterns from individual crime reports, it maps them out across the board, making it easier for investigators from different departments to collaborate, detect hidden links and solve cases together. 

Exposed to various aspects of crime prevention 

Ms Chong was able to harness her knowledge of technology because she was given various upskilling opportunities on the job. 

In 2019, she was assigned as a lead analyst for a project with AI Singapore (AISG) – an initiative that trains talents in artificial intelligence – where she underwent a two-month training programme that taught her software engineering and machine-learning techniques. She also had the chance to learn about the latest data science technology at international conferences every year. 

Ms Chong says all her supervisors have been deeply supportive of staff development. This includes being exposed to the different areas of work in the Police Intelligence Department.

“Within the first few years of joining the SPF, there is an effort to ensure that all of us are posted to different teams, so we can try the various aspects of crime prevention and have a better feel of what we are each best at.”

Having a supportive work environment has resulted in the continual acquisition of skills and knowledge among the teams and fostered a close-knit community across divisions, where the exchange of different approaches and ideas is encouraged.

“Our bosses are very open to alternative ways to solve problems, which allows us the freedom to try out new methodologies. This really helps in building a great team to work with,” she says.