Crime, lost and found property system helps West Midlands Police return property to rightful owners


West Midlands Police is the second largest police force in the country, serving a population of around 2.63 million. Everyday, hundreds of items of property, ranging from mobile phones to bicycles are either handed in to the police by the public or removed from crime scenes as evidence. In general the main business objective is to facilitate the efficient return of property to the rightful owner or to dispose of items quickly and efficiently and overall to reduce the administration and storage burden on the force as a whole.

Following a competitive OJEU tendering process, PDMS were awarded the contract to develop and implement a new force wide Crime, Lost and Found Property Management System.

This was a complex project for a number of key reasons:

The nature of the property business procedures which have to deal with the complete lifecycle from initial data entry to the ultimate return or disposal while including a record of all events in a fully auditable manner.

The scale of the system, to cater for over 8,000 end users across 21 different Operational Command Units (Divisions) and to hold information on hundreds of thousands of individual items per year.

It was essential that the system also integrated with a number of West Midlands Police's other key line of business applications (e.g. Oracle HR and their Crime Data warehouse) in order to reduce data entry and enable sophisticated data searches.


PDMS developed the system using their Foundations Application Server and business components which already covered common business requirements, such as, authentication, access control and audit. The system is based on an Oracle/Unix based database in line with West Midlands Police's current technical policy. Presentation of the data uses modern stylesheet technologies to present the user with appropriate information and system functions depending on both user permission levels and workstation type. The core functions of the Crime, Lost & Found property system are as follows:

Storage of property records - including a pre-populated standardised property item description dataset which speeds up data entry processes, maintains data quality while also improving search and match results.

Seal management - including information on the location, status and transfer of the sealed bags with unique reference numbers.

Property disposal - including processes to return property to owner, to dispose either by destruction, auction or transfer to secure stores. Required documentation is produced by the system at all relevant stages in the process e.g. auction forms and collection letters.

System administration - to manage the set up of users and groups, OCU's and workstations and property definitions

Searching for property - powerful search and match facilities integrated with the crime management system

Reminders - generates automated e-mails for a number of processes, to ensure property items are dealt with promptly by the designated Officer in Charge (OIC). The e-mails are configurable and are audited.

Auditing - all business function tasks, key events and processes are audited throughout the life history of the Property Item.

An essential requirement of the new web based system was the integration with existing databases, to reduce data entry and to enable sophisticated data searches. Interfaces were written to several key systems including: Oracle HR, the force Crime Data Warehouse and Name and Address Gazetteer.

PDMS' FoundationsTM DataViewer was also provided with the Property system to give West Midlands Police a flexible and powerful reporting tool with standard reports but which also is flexible in order to respond to dynamic, intelligence-led policing requests.

The project team at PDMS worked closely with the West Midlands Police property project team and the IT Department and provided a number of key additional services including database management, infrastructure design, configuration and set-up.

The implementation of the system was phased through a period of 'cascade' style training implemented across the force. This strategic roll out was completed at the beginning of 2004 at all 21 Operational Command Units.


Over 80 police stations and all property offices now use the software and it currently holds information on 1.5 million property records, logging items ranging from watches to mountain bikes, and which can be accessed by over 8,000 officers and support staff.

Feedback from West Midlands Police has been very positive as the system helps them manage the Property Management processes more efficiently and effectively while the new browser based system gives faster, easier and wider access to property records in a secure environment.

The solution enables them to produce pro-active 'intelligence led' policing reports and to analyse possible trends, for example, 'lost passports reported by area or timeframe'.

The Crime, Lost & Found Property system has also been designed with flexibility in mind so that new features such as bar-coding, property item images, scanned signatures and mobile PDA use can all be easily implemented within the system.

The system has not only saved the West Midlands Police Authority administration time and therefore reduced costs, but is helping to significantly improve performance in relation to the return of found or recovered property.

Crime, lost and found property system helps West Midlands Police return property to rightful owners quote image
Our lost and found property system has been in use now for over 10 years. The original design concept has stood the test of time and it has been readily enhanced several times to meet developing operational requirements. Throughout we have received personal support from the same director, who understands our business and always delivers. Chris Willetts Facilities Manager