Three Ways Technology Can Make Cities Safer

Pundits have long debated the root causes of crime and how to combat it, such as investing in education, early intervention, and programs to reduce unemployment. Those may be successful strategies from a social perspective, but what about technology? Can technology also be a safe-city enabler?

Here are three ways that cites can apply technology to enhance safety:

Leverage Existing Security Systems to their Fullest Potential – Let’s face it – government agencies already invest a lot of money in security systems, ranging from street video surveillance to access control, license plate recognition (LPR), gunshot detection and other systems. Some of these systems are used by private organizations as well. So collectively, in a city, county or region, there is already a well-established and powerful security system infrastructure. Most times, the only thing lacking is the ability to connect it all together. But that’s changing. Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), for instance, operates around 1,000 surveillance cameras. But working with other agencies and private organizations, they’ve been able to create a seamless city-wide surveillance network of over 20,000 cameras.

PSIM offers one way to achieve this more easily. An open, overlay, vendor-agnostic solution, PSIM can combine any number of video management systems (VMSs) in one user interface. Control room operators just see the big picture. They never even know that there are different brands of VMS working behind the scenes.

Unify and Correlate Security Information– Building on my last point, to the extent that different city agencies/entities invest in all of these security systems, why not centralize all of them in one place? And I don’t mean physically. What I do mean is having all of the information and alerts from these systems come into one centralized place – and what better place than the city control center?

I’m not just talking sharing video feeds although that’s a big part of it. Think DoT video cameras, radiological sensors on the transit system, the access control system at a nuclear power plant, a perimeter protection system for a city water supply, a university’s campus emergency notification system. Now, if there’s a major accident on the highway, a terrorist incident, a campus shooting, a breach at a critical facility, the control center has the immediate real-time situational awareness they need to respond.  Also because all of the information coming from these different city-wide (or regional) sources is now part of one system, it can be cross-correlated. Is what just happened on campus connected to this other event? You get the picture.

Social media as the ultimate crime fighting tool– Cities are also creatively employing social media as an effective crime fighting tool. For example, the Philadelphia Police Department leverages Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as part of a comprehensive social media and community engagement program. Videos and information about various unsolved crimes are posted on these social media sites. Citizens view the information and then submit tips via text messages, email, or phone. Since its inception in 2011, the program has resulted in well over 100 arrests. Another great example of how innovative technology, applied the right way, can make cities safer.

Do you have any thoughts on how technology can make cities safer? Do you have a success story to share? E-mail me at I’d love to hear from you.

To learn more about NICE’s public safety solutions, join us at Interactions 2013, the industry’s leading customer conference.


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