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Psychology Research to Help Detect Criminal Activity

Story supplied by LU Press Office

Police and security services will benefit from new research aimed at improving the investigation of criminal and terrorist activity, announced this week at the BA Festival of Science in York.

The research aims to develop techniques that combine technologies for geographical positioning and analysing communication signals with forensic psychology techniques for detecting deception during interviews with suspects.

The project, led by Lancaster University, has received £900k of funding from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to investigate whether deception can be identified reliably from suspects' movements, communications and behaviours.

Professor Tom Ormerod from Lancaster University, the project's Principal Investigator said "The extreme risks and rapid time frames associated with terrorist activities add to the difficulty of gathering evidence that might prevent an attack or lead to successful prosecution.

It is vital that the police and security services are provided with tools that help them make reliable decisions about who to treat as a suspect and whether there is sufficient evidence to secure a prosecution, since immense damage can be caused by wrongful arrests based on misinterpretations of weak evidence."

The three-year project will deploy and develop technologies that allow the tracking of individuals and the monitoring of communications between team members. Researchers will test the technology using 'treasure hunt'-style exercises, where one team representing the suspects competes against another team representing the police, and mock interviews with team participants in which evidence from tracking and communications is presented to interviewers to aid their questioning of suspects.

The interactions will be studied by psychologists and analysed by data-mining specialists to determine where the team participants are applying deception or where the account of their activities is true. The researchers will also conduct interviews to assess public awareness of, and response to, monitoring and surveillance in counter-terrorism.

The other Universities involved in the research are Nottingham University (location-based monitoring and data analysis - Professor Mike Jackson, Dr Bai Li), Leicester (Forensic Psychology - Prof. Ray Bull), St Andrews (Communications monitoring and analysis - Prof. Saleem Bhatti) and Leeds Metropolitan (data mining - Dr Elizabeth Guest).

Sun 14 September 2008

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