Fontys ICT students and Rotterdam Police join forces in fight against online abuse

In today's society, it is important for the Rotterdam Police to not stand still. This constant drive for innovation within various departments of the organisation eventually resulted in a nice partnership Fontys ICT. The convenant for this was recently signed. Within this partnership, enthusiastic students and teachers work together on projects with a social impact. One of these projects offers a wide range of support for detection work.

The project was set up with the Vice Department within the Rotterdam Police. Leon van Bokhorst, researcher lecturer at Fontys ICT, says: "About two years ago, I came into contact with the Police through a minor in our Open Learning programme. In fact, we are always looking for companies willing to offer assignments and internships to our students. This eventually resulted in a research question that our students started working on. The fact that we have been working on this for two years now shows how incredibly important and topical the question is. It carries a certain weight and students feel this too. It is meaningful work that we are all incredibly proud of."

Leo, operations expert and leader of the digital team within the Rotterdam Police Department's Vice Division, adds: "Within the Police, we are constantly trying to improve ourselves and keep innovating. In this case, Fontys ICT students are helping us to create and develop tools that we can use at the Vice Department. We use this tool to identify and track suspects of online abuse and its victims on various online platforms. Thanks to the results of this project, we can continue to professionalise with our team." Leo continued: "This project is a long-term project with no predetermined end date. This allows us to experiment fully with generative AI. That we get to work on such an impactful project makes me feel grateful and subservient."

Digital prove
Digital vice investigator and Open Source Intelligence specialist Iris also feels this gratitude: "We are extremely happy with the cooperation. These days, there is almost no vice case without digital contact. It is therefore important that we can produce as much digital evidence as possible. We hope that through projects like this we can more quickly and effectively identify suspects and detect crimes."

Cooperation between the field and students is essential. It creates a real win-win situation where both parties learn a lot from each other. Domain-technical knowledge is exchanged and students can also learn a lot in terms of communication with the professional field. This created an interaction about the process, design and technology. The project had to be flexible and receptive to innovation. Iris: "We learned, for example, that no result is also a result. Thanks to the proactive cooperation, we can continue to prepare for the future. After all, the world is always changing."

Challenging for students
Larissa, digital specialist at the Rotterdam Police Department's Vice Department, agrees: "The developed tool has a direct impact on our daily work. The tool makes things easier and it in turn provides the specialists on our team with additional knowledge." Colleague Savannah, OSINT specialist, adds: "Our work is incredibly important, which makes it challenging but also difficult for students. The work must not come to a standstill. Thanks to this collaboration, the specialists on our team can add depth: this fresh perspective provides new insights. We are extremely happy with that."

Sandra Verhoeven, partner coordinator at Fontys ICT, is also proud of the collaboration: "We want to contribute to society. We do this together with students, teachers, researchers but also with the professional field. The project is therefore a fantastic example where we both learn from each other and make a direct contribution to society. We are proud to have been able to appoint the Rotterdam Police as our partner." Leo adds: "Within the Police, there are many opportunities in the field of IT. This goes beyond just our team. The topic of Cyber Security is also in full swing within our organisation. Thanks to our partnership, we can work together with up-and-coming IT talent on the future of our field of work."

Photo (from left to right): Leo, Larissa, Savannah, Iris and Leon
Surnames of colleagues at Police Rotterdam are known to the editor.

Author: Nathalie Verschueren