Police Management of Property and Exhibits

Tabled: 5 September 2018

3 Seizure, storage and disposal

In this part of the report, we examine the volume of property Victoria Police seizes, how it is stored, the rate of property disposal and the average time items remain in police possession.

We reviewed how Victoria Police uses the test of essentiality to ensure members only seize items that have forensic or investigative value and to consider whether secondary evidence can be used instead of primary items. If used effectively, seizing less property and utilising secondary evidence can reduce the number of property holdings. We also reviewed general storage conditions and how timely Victoria Police is in disposing items it no longer needs.

We use case studies focused on the collection, storage and disposal of several types of property—such as unsolved serious crime exhibits, car registration plates, cannabis and digital devices—to examine how Victoria Police can improve its efficiency and reduce associated risks.

3.1 Conclusion

Victoria Police holds more property than necessary, resulting in process, storage and cost inefficiencies. A weak control environment and devolved governance arrangements—discussed in Part 2—have contributed to this.

Victoria Police cannot be confident that it only retains items based on evidentiary value or that police members rigorously apply the test of essentiality at the scene of a crime. Nor can it be sure it is making the best use of secondary evidence.

Further, it cannot guarantee that items are always stored in a way that preserves their evidentiary value, and it does not know how many items in its possession are subject to the rule to retain exhibits related to unsolved serious crime for a minimum of 50 years.

The sheer volume of seized items in police possession, and its subsequent management, impacts staff workload, security arrangements and disposal. It puts strain on Victoria Police's storage facilities—many of which are already over capacity and not fit for purpose.

There are some examples of good practice. For example, Victoria Police's pilot approach for the early destruction of cannabis successfully used existing legislative provisions to efficiently dispose of cannabis, freeing up significant storage capacity. It has also reduced OHS risks to staff. Implementing this process across the organisation, which Victoria Police recently approved as business as usual, should yield significant benefits.

Proposed amendments to the VPM should improve overall processes and requirements. For example, setting minimum standards for physical storage sites or requiring police members to reapply the test of essentiality periodically for certain items are positive steps. However, significant gaps remain, such as not requiring the creation of secondary evidence for all unsolved serious crime exhibits and not assessing storage locations against known risks that may impact evidentiary value, such as leaking roofs and extreme temperatures.

3.2 Test of essentiality

The test of essentiality means that police should only retain items if they are required for evidentiary purposes and if secondary evidence cannot be used. Applying a robust test of essentiality to property management should minimise property holdings.

Seizing and retaining items based on evidentiary value

Currently, Victoria Police cannot be sure that the test of essentiality is consistently applied to ensure police members are only seizing items of evidentiary value.

As the application of the test is not specifically recorded in PaLM or elsewhere, there is no way to demonstrate or monitor that sergeants are consistently and systematically reviewing and approving the evidentiary value of property being retained.

At the eight police stations we visited, we spoke to a mix of 20 constables, sergeants and senior sergeants about the test of essentiality. Officers, particularly investigators, described a strong inclination toward collecting and retaining physical items. They stated that, at the time of the initial seizure, it is hard to know which items will be significant to a case. Further, if a case is heard in court, the failure to produce primary evidence or make it available to the defence in a trial may ultimately result in a miscarriage of justice.

While this attitude by police members is understandable, it highlights the need for periodic reviews of evidentiary value. As there is currently no such requirement to re-apply the test of essentiality, many seized items that are being held for long periods of time have unconfirmed or doubtful evidentiary value.

Victoria Police established a PEMRP project to revise the test of essentiality. The draft changes, if approved, intend to:

  • make clearer that the test of essentiality applies to all stages of the property life cycle, not just at collection
  • simplify the language and requirements, reduce the length of the test, and include more information about the use of secondary evidence and disposal of primary evidence
  • provide a checklist to ensure that police members follow best practice.

Secondary evidence

As part of the test of essentiality, police members should consider whether secondary evidence could be used in place of the primary evidence. This can help to reduce storage requirements and has the potential to minimise other risks such as manual-handling injuries.

While there are serious constraints on the use of secondary evidence, incremental improvements are possible, for example, for certain low-risk items, such as car registration plates.

Constraints and the need for reform

Property and exhibit management policies and processes are significantly impacted by legislation and the requirements of Victoria Police Prosecutions and the OPP expectations.

Exhibits relating to summary (less serious) charges are managed by Victoria Police Prosecutions and can be disposed of at the discretion of Victoria Police. However, the OPP prosecutes cases of a more serious nature and, while Victoria Police are still the custodians of these exhibits, the OPP has expectations, and in some cases legislative obligations, to have free access to those exhibits. As noted earlier, the failure to produce primary evidence or make it available to the defence could result in a miscarriage of justice. Victoria Police would therefore need to work with OPP to advocate for legislative reform. A PEMRP project researched the opportunity for legislation reform, and Victoria Police raised this issue with the Department of Justice and Regulation for inclusion in its Community Safety Statement 2018–19. To date, however, this legislative reform has not progressed.

Following the completion of the PEMRP, Victoria Police's Policy and Legislation Division, in consultation with the Operational Infrastructure Department, will be responsible for advocating further reform. If legislated, this will further enable the early disposal and/or return of property and exhibits. Victoria Police is currently in the process of evaluating legislative options.

The Victoria Police Forensic Services Centre should also be consulted regarding the creation and use of secondary evidence, especially to take account of potential future forensic developments and examinations.

Victoria Police also has technical limitations in efficiently using secondary evidence as it does not have appropriate processes or IT systems to facilitate its storage. The VPM states that secondary evidence should be recorded on a digital asset register. During field visits, some police members and detectives stated that secondary evidence was stored with the investigation file, while others also recorded such evidence in PaLM.

With the recording and storage of secondary evidence dispersed across three registers, there is a risk that police do not know how much secondary evidence they have, or where all the copies are located. This becomes an issue when secondary evidence needs to be destroyed.

Using secondary evidence for low-risk property

There is an opportunity for Victoria Police to expand its use of secondary evidence for low-risk property types. For example, some stations we visited routinely used photographs for items such as car registration plates and then disposed of the physical item. The case study in Figure 3A outlines our analysis of PaLM data to see how long car registration plates were stored by police.

Figure 3A
Case study: Using secondary evidence for car registration plates

We analysed how long car registration plates that were disposed of had been in police possession. The chart below shows that approximately 2 830 car registration plates recorded in PaLM were disposed of in the first month—however, this represents only 18 per cent of all car registration plates that were held in police stations and property stores. Over 4 000 car registration plates remained in police possession for more than a year, representing 26 per cent of all registration plates disposed of.

Length of time Victoria Police held car registration plates that have since been disposed of

This graph shows length of time Victoria Police held car registration plates that have since been disposed of

Source: VAGO based on PaLM data, extracted 20 June 2018.

In most instances, it is not necessary to retain the physical car registration plates. There is a potential for property items such as these to default to secondary evidence in the form of a photographs, unless there is a specific reason to keep the primary item.

This will reduce the time police hold such property and improve storage capacity. In instances where the exhibit in question relates to an indictable (serious) offence being prosecuted by OPP, Victoria Police will need to consult with OPP to agree on when the use of secondary evidence is appropriate.

PaLM shows that, at 20 June 2018, there were 3 937 records of car registration number plates currently in police possession.

Source: VAGO.

Reapplying the test of essentiality

Victoria Police has a policy that exhibits related to unsolved serious crimes must be retained for a minimum of 50 years. However, Victoria Police does not know how many items in its possession are subject to the 50-year retention rule.

This is because, until the recent VPM update, which is still in draft, Victoria Police did not have a clear and consistent policy on what constitutes a serious crime, nor did it define at what point an investigation is unsolved.

The case study in Figure 3B describes our analysis of PaLM data related to exhibits from unsolved crimes.

Figure 3B
Case study: Unsolved serious crime exhibits currently in possession

Our analysis of the PaLM data shows that there are 121 736 seized items currently in possession that may be subject to the 50-year rule. These items do not have a brief book number, suggesting there is no identified suspect or offender. While there is no set time frame for an investigation to be deemed as unsolved, we used one year, in line with the estimates used by the Operational Infrastructure Department in its analysis for TALC.

The minimum for an investigation to be deemed unsolved is one year, but for some cases this may take up to and above five years.

Data analysis shows that there are 53 361 items that have been in possession for one year without a brief book number. However, even with this information, there are further complications:

  • PaLM data is not granular enough to identify whether these items relate to serious crimes.
  • Identifying which items fall under the rule would require police members to evaluate each file or item individually—this has not been done yet, and station commanders or work unit officers in charge do not have sufficient time and resources to do so.
  • Assessing the evidentiary value for older items that pre-date LEAP and Interpose—Victoria Police databases used to record crime, incidents and investigations—requires a review of the hardcopy investigation file, discussion with the original investigator (if available) and/or speaking with the victim to determine whether there is value in pursuing the case. This is particularly resource intensive.

Nevertheless, it is important to establish the evidentiary value of the items currently in possession to ensure that they are not retained for longer than necessary and thereby a drain on resources.

Source: VAGO.

Dealing with unsolved serious crime exhibits in future

The new VPM updates are intended to introduce a clearer process flow for unsolved serious crime exhibits in the future. Unsolved serious crime exhibits will be transferred to the centralised storage facility and will undergo a five‑yearly review of the evidentiary value of unsolved serious crime exhibits. The new process flow is shown in Appendix C.

The 50-year retention rule has also been updated to require Victoria Police to retain exhibits relating to unsolved homicide and/or missing person investigations indefinitely, while the remaining unsolved serious crime exhibits are still to be retained for a minimum of 50 years.

While the requirement to periodically review items is a step in the right direction, it is unclear how this interacts with the rule to keep items for a minimum of 50 years or indefinitely, during which time they cannot be disposed of without adding unnecessary work every five years.

The value of keeping all unsolved homicide and missing persons files for an indefinite time is also unclear, as they are highly unlikely to be required after a certain time frame—for example, 100 years, as the suspect is likely to be deceased. Victoria Police advises that, even if a suspect is deceased, there is still the ability to finalise a case based on DNA analysis and therefore the property items should be kept. However, this requirement should also be assessed against the likelihood that storage facilities will have limited capacity into the future.

Further, the creation of secondary evidence—in addition to keeping the physical item—should be part of the standard pre-storage procedures for all exhibits related to serious unsolved crimes.

3.3 Storage

Providing adequate storage for property and exhibits is essential for preventing items from degrading, being stolen or lost, becoming damaged or contaminated, and losing their evidentiary value. It also protects staff from associated OHS risks.

Current storage conditions

The central storage sites near Melbourne are not fit for purpose—they are ageing and were not specifically designed and built to store property. They are also over capacity and will not cope with the additional volume of equipment, records and property created by the 3 135 additional officers Victoria Police has committed to recruit by 2020.

The centralised storage facility, which houses long-term and other property and exhibits, is dilapidated and is not configured to the needs of a secure, modern evidence warehouse. The location of the facility presents a broad range of security challenges—Victoria Police currently has no way to ensure the privacy of staff and property entering or exiting the facility. This is a significant security risk, particularly when police deliver seizures from sensitive operations for long‑term storage.

The age and condition of the facility results in poor climatic control—the heating and air conditioning are not adequately regulated. In summer, the warehouse area can reach temperatures of up to 38ºC which, over the long term, may degrade the packaging and contents of seized exhibits.

At older police stations we visited, some property store rooms are equally inadequate. Not all the stations we visited had acceptable ventilation, particularly for the storage of cannabis, which is affecting air quality.

Many property rooms we visited were also overcrowded in general, however one station we visited had particularly poor property storage. At this station, property is dispersed throughout the station and the bulk of evidence is stored in an external shipping container located in the rear yard of the station. Drugs are stored in an additional shipping container within the property. The recorded temperature in the outside container reaches above 50ºC in summer. It is unclear whether the heat has negatively affected the property—there is a risk that the heat could change their chemical composition over time.

The property storage container also has had recurring issues with leaking, which has damaged some items. Evidence has also become mouldy owing to moisture exposure, and staff must now wear personal protective equipment when entering the storage container because of the health risks caused by the mould. Figure 3C shows three images from inside the property storage container.

Figure 3C
Property storage container at a police station

Figure 3C shows three images from inside the property storage container.

Source: VAGO.

Victoria Police has developed a business case to rebuild this station. While the 2018–19 State Budget included $4.8 million for critical upgrades to police stations, this station was not one of those funded for an upgrade.

Storage of long-term items

As noted in Figure 3B, some exhibits must be retained long term or indefinitely. To preserve their integrity, these items need to be stored to a specific standard to protect against contamination and degradation.

Victoria Police cannot be confident that items are retained based on evidentiary value and that the handling and storage of long-term property is safe and secure. The case study in Figure 3D discusses recent Victoria Police initiatives to improve long-term storage of property.

Figure 3D
Case study: Improving packaging and assessing storage conditions for long‑term items

The 2014 evaluation found that there are no packaging standards to ensure the integrity of exhibits related to serious unsolved crimes and that packaging practices were poor. Two PEMRP projects aimed to address these gaps by identifying suitable packaging products to support best practice and to set essential infrastructure standards for storage to reduce associated risks.

Victoria Police is currently reviewing potential new packaging specifications. It intends to procure a suitable packaging solution and develop relevant packaging guidelines to:

  • protect property from any damage or tampering
  • enhance continuity of evidence.

The draft updates to the VPM now require relevant work unit managers to assess police stations and central property storage locations against a checklist of physical standards for all property and exhibit storage sites. While this requirement is positive, Victoria Police has not defined a process for how to resolve identified issues.

Further, the checklist also does not test known risks to property—such as leaking roofs or extreme temperatures—which we observed during our site visits. These are key gaps that Victoria Police should address.

Source: VAGO.

3.4 Length of time in police possession and efficiency of disposal

Where an item passes the test of essentiality, it is taken into police custody and stored at a police station or storage facility.

Length of time in police possession—seized items

Active items

Victoria Police records show 417 985 active seized items in police possession as at 20 June 2018. We analysed the length of time these items have been in police possession by looking at the date the item was received. Figure 3E shows that:

  • 73 per cent (305 284 items) were seized in the last two years
  • 22 per cent (92 185 items) were seized in the last two to five years
  • 3 per cent (13 841 items) were seized in the last five to 10 years
  • 2 per cent (6 675 items) were seized more than 10 years ago.

Figure 3E
Length of time active seized items have been in police possession

Figure3E shows the length of time active seized items have been in police possession

Note: This figure does not include 116 542 items that do not have a receipt date. Issues with data integrity are detailed in Section 2.4.
Source: VAGO based on PaLM data, extracted 20 June 2018.

Volume and shelf life of disposed items

Victoria Police records show 1 190 534 seized items have been in police possession since Victoria Police began recording. Figure 3F shows that:

  • 85 per cent (996 188 items) were in possession for up to two years
  • 14 per cent (167 039 items) were in possession for two to five years
  • 0.75 per cent (13 691 items) were in possession for five to 10 years
  • 0.25 per cent (2 983 items) were in possession for more than 10 years.

Figure 3F
Length of time disposed-of seized items have been in police possession

Figure3F shows the length of time disposed-of seized items have been in police possession

Note: This figure does not include 10 633 items that show zero days in custody and 111 items that show negative days in custody. Issues with data integrity are detailed in Section 2.4.
Source: VAGO based on PaLM data, extracted 20 June 2018.

Delays in analysing digital devices

In some instances, delays obtaining forensic analysis of items—for example, DNA, firearms, drugs and digital devices—contributes to the property remaining in police possession for an extended period of time. The case study in Figure 3G describes delays relating to the forensic analysis of digital devices by Victoria Police's eCrime department.

Figure 3G
Case study: eCrime analysis of digital devices

Most evidence contained within digital devices is analysed by the eCrime department.

All stations we visited during the audit noted significant delays in accessing eCrime services—the volume of jobs serviced by the eCrime department has fluctuated between 1 450 and 1 650 per year.

The department notes that the complexity of analysis and, therefore, the time required to complete it has increased. The table below lists the current prioritisation and wait times.

Prioritisation and wait times for eCrime services

Ranking

Wait time

Example

Priority A—emergency

Immediate

Counterterrorism or serious crimes in which the offender remains a risk to society.

Priority B—high priority

Approximately 10 weeks

Crime Command requests, murder, arson or crimes in which the offender is remanded in custody.

Priority C—low priority

Approximately 14 months

All other jobs.

Source: VAGO based on information provided by Victoria Police.

Delays in accessing eCrime services have resulted in investigations moving on without forensic analysis of the device and may also require stations to store devices for longer than otherwise necessary.

Source: VAGO.

Efficiency of disposal—seized items

Timely disposal of property and exhibits ensures an efficient property management system. We analysed PaLM data to determine the rate of disposal of seized items, as well as its timeliness.

Rate of disposal

Victoria Police does not dispose of seized property in a timely way. Disposing of property as soon as is lawfully and practically possible would help to free up storage capacity.

Victoria Police seizes property at a greater rate than the rate at which it is being disposed of, even though the difference between intake and disposal is reducing year on year. Figure 3H shows that, in 2014, Victoria Police seized 48 860 more items than it disposed of. While this difference reduced to 9 650 items in 2017, the net result for the four years since 2014 shows that Victoria Police collected 175 626 more items than it disposed of.

Figure 3H
Receipt and disposal of seized property items per year

Figure3H shows the receipt and disposal of seized property items per year

Note: We excluded 655 disposals from 2015, as these records were duplicate entries which originated from the data migration starting in 2014.
Source: VAGO based on PaLM data, extracted 20 June 2018.

Timeliness of disposal

Once police receive approval to dispose of an item, it should be disposed of or returned within one month. However, items that are subject to auction may take longer than one month due to the auction times that are dictated by the contracted auction house. Our data analysis shows that, of the 727 825 seized items that have a disposal approval date and a disposal date, 485 445 items (63 per cent) were disposed of or returned within one month of approval.

Figure 3I shows the timeliness of disposal for the remaining 269 380 items. The majority of items were disposed of within three months, however 110 494 items were still in police possession three months after they had been approved for disposal or return. Of these, 1 563 items took longer than two years to dispose of, 15 of which took over five years.

Figure 3I
Length of time between disposal approval date and disposed of / returned date for seized items

Figure3I shows the length of time between disposal approval date and disposed of / returned date for seized items

Note: This figure excludes 715 items that appeared to have a negative duration between approval and disposal—that is, the actual disposal date appears to be before the disposal approval date. Issues with data integrity are detailed in Section 2.4.
Source: VAGO based on PaLM data, extracted 20 June 2018.

Seized items that are linked to a court case should be disposed of once the last court date is passed by 60 days (30 days past the appeal period). Of the 534 539 items on PaLM that have both a court date and a disposed of date, 306 057 items (57 per cent) were disposed of within six months of the court date.

Figure 3J shows the timeliness of disposal for the remaining 228 482 items. It took over two years to dispose of 28 922 items—108 of which were still on the shelf 10 years after disposal was approved.

Figure 3J
Length of time between court date and disposed of / returned date for seized items

Figure3J shows the length of time between court date and disposed of / returned date for seized items

Note: This figure excludes 135 822 items that appear to have a negative duration between last court date and disposal date—that is, the disposal date is before the latest court date.
Source: VAGO based on PaLM data, extracted 20 June 2018.

Barriers to efficient disposal of seized items

The efficient disposal of property generally relies on informants instigating the disposal process, but this is impeded by several factors including:

  • the considerable time taken to investigate and prosecute some offences and the lack of a periodic review process to reapply the test of essentiality
  • a 'set and forget' approach, where once the property is in storage it is no longer thought about—this is in part due to the cumbersome property management system and a lack of clear insight into the status of property through current reporting
  • failure by prosecutors to seek an order from the court for exhibits to be returned, forfeited to the Crown or destroyed
  • transfer and resignation of informants.

Another key issue that impedes efficient disposal of property is that linking brief book numbers to property and exhibits within PaLM is a manual process that members do not always undertake. The status of the brief determines the actions that members need to take and allows property officers or officers in charge to identify property that is ready for disposal. However, when there is no attached brief book number to allow members to check an item's status, these items cannot be readily identified and disposal generally relies on the informant's instructions.

Due to the above issues, disposal is often delayed indefinitely or overlooked altogether. Victoria Police should systematically review these barriers to efficient disposal and determine ways to address them.

The impact of long shelf life and inefficient disposal

Our data analysis shows that there is significant room for Victoria Police to improve the efficiency of its disposal of seized property items. The more seized items that are unnecessarily kept for long periods of time, the more adverse impacts they have on storage capacity, the time and resources required to manage them and conduct audits, and the costs involved in these activities.

Further, data analysis shows that long shelf life and inefficient disposal is also an issue for the found (or lost/unclaimed) property class.

Legislative provisions require Victoria Police to retain this property for a minimum of three months, during which time enquiries can be made to find the rightful owner. After the three-month period, if the owner has not been found, items can either be returned to the finder or disposed of.

There were 37 402 found property items in possession as at 20 June 2018, making up six per cent of all active property—refer to Figure 1B. PaLM records show that 26 106 of those items, or 37 per cent, have been in police possession for over three months, with 12 867 items being in police possession for over one year. Of these, 1 290 items have been on the shelf for five years or more.

Managing this property contributes to storage capacity pressures and uses significant time and administrative resources. The 2014 evaluation found that most found items are retrieved by the owner within one month, after which time there is very little likelihood that an owner will be located. This resulted in a PEMRP project to advocate for reducing the legislative timeframe from three months to one month. While the PEMRP has now disbanded, this activity is being pursued by other areas of Victoria Police.

Efficient destruction of cannabis seizures

Victoria Police's early destruction of cannabis trial is a successful example of how it can use secondary evidence and free up significant storage capacity. This process, outlined in Figure 3K, has also reduced exposure to OHS risks.

Figure 3K
Case study: Efficient destruction of cannabis seizures

Current processes for storing and handling cannabis

The 2014 evaluation found that storing large volumes of cannabis and hydroponic equipment was the most significant contemporary challenge for Victoria Police's management of property and exhibits. As at February 2018, Victoria Police had 12 727 active entries for cannabis (classified as GVM) in PaLM.

The centralised storage facility retains a large volume of cannabis, however police stations have a larger combined total. At times, the centralised storage facility and police stations have been at full capacity and unable to accept further cannabis holdings.

As discussed in Part 2, the storage of fresh cannabis creates numerous OHS risks to Victoria Police members and unnecessarily exposes them to airborne spores and mould produced by drying cannabis.

Early destruction trial

Victoria Police's early destruction pilot trial ran from March 2017 to 30 June 2018 and included only Crime Command. Instead of the finding of fact (FoF) process, the trial used provisions in the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981, which allows for the early destruction of a drug in the interest of health and safety.

Evaluations of the trial show that it achieved several efficiencies and benefits:

  • The trial reduced the time between seizure and destruction—if a FoF was obtained, the cannabis was destroyed in 65 days, but if the FoF was not obtained, the cannabis could be held for years. During the trial, the average time between seizure and destruction was reduced to five days.
  • More efficient destruction processes reduced required storage space—the trial eliminated the need for 203 cubic metres of storage, freeing up this space for alternative use.
  • The trial reduced members' exposure to OHS risk—early destruction of the cannabis eliminated the need for police to store and handle cannabis.

During the audit, we heard several reports that police did not undertake some crop house raids because there was simply no space to store additional cannabis. Eliminating the need for storage space through the trial therefore allowed for more raids of cannabis crop houses. Figures from the trial show that Crime Command could seize and destroy six times more cannabis during the trial period than during a similar period in the previous year.

The Forensic Services Department has analysis that shows that any implementation costs, such as staffing and contractor costs, will be offset by the benefits of:

  • freeing up storage space
  • freeing up property officers' and police members' time
  • eliminating travel time to and from destruction locations for property officers and police members.

The pilot trial was recently approved as business as usual. Victoria Police advises that the ongoing cannabis management strategy will aim to minimise and eventually eliminate the storage of cannabis at police stations and property stores, thereby reducing the risks associated with the handling, transport, storage and disposal of cannabis.

Source: VAGO.

Ensuring disposal methods are legal

In addition to efficiencies, Victoria Police must also consider the legality of its disposal methods. The case study in Figure 3L describes the legal considerations for a returning a mobile phone.

Figure 3L
Case study: Returning found mobile phones to the finder

Under common law, the finder of an item handed into police has a right to claim it if the owner cannot be located within three months.

In early 2018, in consideration of changes to the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014, Victoria Police sought legal advice from the Victorian Government Solicitor's Office to determine its obligations to return mobile phones and other digital devices to the finder. The Victorian Government Solicitor's Office recommended that found devices be destroyed rather than returned to the finder due, in part, to privacy concerns.

The VPM does not yet include this requirement and, in the interim, the change was communicated to stations via newsletters. We analysed PaLM records for the period January to April 2018 and found that 12 of the 245 found mobile phones (approximately 5 per cent) had been returned to the finder. It is clear from PaLM comments that some stations are aware of the new requirements, with comments noting 'cannot be returned to finder for privacy reasons'. However, four phones were returned to finders in March 2018 and two in April 2018 after the new requirements came into effect.

The requirement will be added to the VPM as part of the current update. Victoria Police should continue to monitor compliance through PaLM data and follow up with stations as appropriate.

Source: VAGO.

3.5 Transport and Logistics Centre

The TALC proposal was based on the concept of selling Victoria Police's current four high-value central sites and investing the proceeds in a single fit‑for-purpose warehouse in Melbourne's northern or western industrial precincts. Victoria Police projects that, after some upfront investment from government, the sale of the four sites would offset the cost of purchasing and building TALC and return a surplus of $21 million to government.

TALC aims to improve Victoria Police's management of equipment, records and property by:

  • reforming the distribution process and travel times
  • building a central warehouse and removing some of the storage burden at local police stations
  • investing in fit-for-purpose warehousing and logistics technology
  • improving warehouse management processes.

Projected efficiencies and benefits

While TALC would be an improvement on Victoria Police's current ageing facilities, the Operational Infrastructure Department also expects it to deliver a number of efficiencies and improvements in the management of property and exhibits.

Time savings

The practice of police members transporting property to and from storage locations removes officers from their operational policing duties. While transportation of inventory and equipment was not the focus of our audit, the Operational Infrastructure Department calculated that police undertake more than 6 300 trips and travel over 1.2 million kilometres to distribute property, equipment and inventory around the state each year. This is over 77 000 hours of police time, the equivalent of 10 000 shifts, that are redirected from policing to transport and distribution.

By improving the distribution process, TALC could reduce the 77 000 police hours used on distribution and allow police to focus on core policing duties.

Storage efficiencies

Victoria Police estimates that, on average, 24-hour police stations are each storing 140 cubic metres of property. This means that, in total, the state's 102 24‑hour stations are storing 16 800 cubic metres of property.

Central storage locations are also currently at or over capacity. TALC has been designed to accommodate 45 per cent of long-term evidence currently stored at police stations. In the absence of an organisation-wide definition of what constitutes long-term property, the Operational Infrastructure Department used its own definition of one year for the purpose of the TALC proposal. Within local police stations, long-term exhibits can be kept for more than 10 years depending on the type of investigation and the availability of staff to review items.

In addition, the project will centrally arrange more efficient disposal processes for destroying documents and recycling metals, along with a new centralised cannabis destruction model, based on the early destruction pilot trial.

Fit-for-purpose technology and equipment

Victoria Police currently uses six warehouse management systems. They are not fit for purpose and do not integrate with each other or with PaLM. TALC would provide Victoria Police with the opportunity to implement an overarching warehouse management solution to provide real-time recording of stock flow and visibility of inventory. This, in turn, would speed up the process of storing, auditing and accessing property within the warehouse.

Future of transport and logistics

Victoria Police does not have alternative options in place to address the needs identified in the TALC proposal. The Operational Infrastructure Department told us that it will commence planning for secondary options and consider property and logistics improvements that are independent of TALC. However, as of 30 June 2018, there are no plans in place.

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