Fight crime more efficiently using connected video

Andrea Sorri

Law enforcement teams around the world share fundamental objectives, but also key challenges. Their inspiring long-term mission is to keep citizens safe and secure. But in the day-to-day reality, they struggle with the practicalities of preventing, deterring and solving crime. At times, new technologies have arisen to make their job more efficient – from police radio to fingerprint databases and DNA forensics. However, only a few have offered such game-changing advances in crimefighting efficiency as today’s smart, connected video solutions.

Rapid results for law enforcement

Just a short time ago, the Brazilian city of Vitória was amongst the 15 most violent metropolitan areas in the world. In the course of one year, however, a joint city and state initiative made a staggering difference. Homicide rates dropped by 50%, and even the number of stolen vehicles recovered improved by 55%.

How could so much be achieved so quickly? A key strategy was to improve collaboration and the sharing of relevant data between different stakeholders. With cameras installed at strategic locations, the municipal police, military police, fire department and other agencies began sharing images and video. The difference this makes in their response and problem-solving capabilities is summed up by Municipal Secretary of Urban Safety, Frônzio Calheira: “Video surveillance brings more criminals to justice and increases citizens’ sense of safety.”

Crimefighting with three cornerstones

Vitória’s integrated Surveillance and Operations Center enables efficient collaboration across agencies.
Vitória’s integrated Surveillance and Operations Center enables efficient collaboration across agencies.

In fact, the successes in Vitória are mirrored by law enforcement achievements in cities around the world. Each law enforcement agency faces its own specific challenges and high-risk areas, but the daily incident management in each city builds on three common aspects of connected video solutions:

  • Network of cameras and other connected devices
    A network of cameras observes key locations where crime is prevalent, or where citizens have a particular need to feel safe. In many cases, the cameras are complemented with sensors or video analytics solutions, which can automatically detect threats or incidents such as gunshots, tres-passing or suspect vehicles.
  • Operations center
    Sometimes referred to as a real-time crime center, the operations center is a hub for incident management. This is where information from the cameras – as well as emergency hotlines and other sources – all comes together. When a sensor alert or call comes in, operators use the cameras to verify the event and follow its development in real time. Thus, operators can make informed decisions about the actions and resources needed, which means a faster response and less risk of incorrect or unnecessary deployment.
  • Connected field resources
    Information processed by the operations center is also distributed to mobile devices in the field. Important information, such as license plate numbers, images of vehicles or suspects and other details can be sent to officers on their way to the scene so they know what and whom to look for, improving the response success. Just as importantly, this information also improves the safety of first responders by preparing them for what’s at the scene in an effective manner.. When everyone is equipped with the latest information, the total response becomes faster and more coordinated.

How these aspects come together is summarized in an infographic.

Real-time efficiency from crime scene to conviction

The effectiveness of a connected video setup like the one above is unmistakable. If you need convincing, start by looking at the following real-life implementations:

  • Almere, The Netherlands, a fast-growing city where a scalable surveillance solution helps keep public spaces safe for citizens. High-quality imagery from fixed and temporarily assigned cameras speeds up response times and provides reliable evidence for investigations.
  • Detroit, Michigan, where Project Green Light reduced violent crime around gas stations by up to 50% in just two years. Today the project includes more than 200 local businesses, with a total of more than 1000 cameras connected to the police department’s real-time crime center.
  • Kolhapur, India, where quicker response times and faster access to evidence are reducing security issues, as tourism increases. Round-the-clock observation of entry/exit points, junctions and tourist attractions helps authorities minimize both crime and traffic violations.

Be sure to get the full story of the connected video solution in Vitória, Brazil.

Sharing the investment – and the success

Vitória’s integrated Surveillance and Operations Center
“The Video Integration Center gives the APD the ability to have eyes across the city and pull video from participating stakeholders without having to own all the resources ourselves.” Thomas R. Sutton, Senior Police Officer, Atlanta Police Department

Another city worth looking at is the US city of Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta has solved a problem many cities face, which is the difficulty of finding funds for surveillance investments and maintenance. Working in partnership with private stakeholders, who benefit from the added security, the city has incorporated feeds from existing cameras at businesses and multi-family housing properties into its operations center. Today, more than 4,000 public and 6,000 private cameras help the Atlanta Police Department combat crime and improve emergency preparedness. Should anything happen at a public school, in the city center, in the public transit system or at any of the other connected public or private organizations, the APD has an instant live view of the situation.

Detroit’s Project Greenlight, mentioned above, is a similar public-private partnership where participating businesses take on the camera investment cost. You can find further examples in this article about public-private initiatives.

A path to safer and smarter cities

Although law enforcement is clearly in focus, the projects in this article can also be viewed as smart city initiatives. They connect devices, data and stakeholders with the aim to better manage a city’s resources and provide better services for its citizens. Once implemented, they not only help to improve law enforcement efficiency, but also to create safer and more livable cities.

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