Budget cuts, new digital technologies and an evolving security landscape are forcing the police to review how they deliver services and what services are appropriate for the future. While today’s police leaders understand there is no “silver-bullet” solution, some forward-thinking forces are eager to embrace operational, technological, organisational and cultural change to help overcome the challenges of today and prepare for the even greater challenges of tomorrow.
Today digital technologies are compressing police reaction times and have set the stage for technologies such as social media, mobile and analytics to become game-changing forces for policing in the future. While technology alone is not the answer, there is now a growing industry consensus that technology transformation must be part of the overall solution.
The police forces who adopt and integrate new technologies into their operations will become the police forces of the future. To keep our cities and citizens safe, law enforcement must be armed with the right technology tools as well as the right processes, behaviour and culture to solve—or even prevent—crimes.
Using video analytics to increase public safety
There exists a solid infrastructure of closed-circuit TV (CCTV) in most cities across the globe, comprising public and private-owned systems. Historically, these have been used retrospectively to examine crime scenes for evidence. But cities such as Singapore are already piloting programs to apply predictive analytics to video feeds. Public safety and security are top priorities for Singapore, which takes pride in its famously low crime rate. Last year, Singapore launched a one-year Safe City Pilot Program which applied electronic vision technologies and predictive analytics to CCTV feeds to detect which of a multitude of street incidents, such as crowd and traffic movement, pose real concerns for public order or safety.
Data mining to prevent crime and manage police operations
Other cities are using statistical analysis and predictive modelling to identify crime trends and highlight “hidden” connections between disparate events and trends. This helps police gain a more complete picture of crime, predict patterns of future criminal behaviour and identify the key causal factors of crime in their area. In London, the Metropolitan Police Service recently completed a pilot program to develop an analytics solution to fight gang crime in the capital.
Next on the horizon of law enforcement technologies is biometric technology, including facial recognition. Cheaper high-resolution cameras and advances in matching technology are resulting in new public-safety solutions. The same technology that has been used to identify high-rollers in casinos, for example, can now be used to identify people banned from football stadia or terrorists on a watch list at key border control points.
The potential for technology to reduce crime and danger to citizens is real. The use of analytics, including location-based and predictive analytics, has proven its effectiveness through many policing programs. While reduced budgets are hindering the pace of technology adoption, the police force of the future is without doubt a technology-enabled one.