Smart City crime prevention: How the City of Detroit reduced violent crime by up to 50%

When a city is looking to invest in smart city solutions, safety is often one of the key drivers for implementing an initiative. Crime prevention can be aided through smart surveillance by enabling authorities to have real-time access to video surveillance systems. The goal is to spot potential incidents that threaten security and manage events as they happen. The City of Detroit has taken this approach and created Project Green Light , which allows for efficient incident management and a collaborative response between citizens and the Detroit Police Department.

The challenge: Address violent crime in the City of Detroit

When it comes to facing any challenge, particularly in an urban environment, understanding the situation goes a long way. In Detroit, Michigan, city officials looked at occurrences of crime and found that in the first half of 2015, nearly a quarter of the city’s violent crimes happened within 500 feet of a gas station after 10pm. Once they knew where crime was happening, city officials were in a better position to prevent or mitigate its impact.

In traditional policing, a crime occurs and someone alerts the Police Department (PD) via a 911 call and the police then arrives. The issue with this is that there needs to be an investigation, the PD needs to find, question witnesses, and follow up; this can take many days/weeks to move forward and to solve crimes. With Project Green Light, if there is an issue at one of the greenlight locations, the PD has immediate access to the scene via cameras and this insight/view enables them to act in seconds. They can dispatch a patrol car and use a high definition video recording that is used to help the PD on the way to the scene. Overall, it helps solve crimes faster, and in many cases, this project helps to deter crime.

The best chance any city’s police force has of preventing or stopping crime is to intervene as quickly as possible, and with as much information as they can gather. When police officers arrive on a scene after the fact or if they enter a situation unprepared, it is much more difficult for them to do their jobs.

While surveillance cameras can provide crucial information about what is happening in and around any location, simply adding more cameras does not go the full way to helping police officers respond in the most effective way. To leverage the full benefit of video surveillance cameras, a police force must have easy access to video footage in real-time and have a good coverage surrounding the area.

Knowing all this, the City of Detroit worked with its citizens and used technology to help bridge the connection between businesses and the PD. To begin, business owners installed HD cameras inside and outside their establishment with additional lighting to sufficiently cover all areas of the property. Second of all, the business owners collaborate with the Detroit Police Department (DPD) by providing them with real-time access to their cameras at all times.  This means that the PD can access the video from their central monitoring facility. Lastly, they installed enhanced exterior lighting systems and a green flashing light, identifying their participation in the program. The best part? There is no storage and no maintenance; all video is stored on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

The Solution: Connect and share live video footage with police

Project Green Light began in January of 2016. As the first public-private community partnership of its kind, the project combines real-time crime-fighting and community policing to improve neighborhood safety and promote the growth of local businesses. At its core, Project Green Light strengthens the city’s efforts to prevent, identify, and solve crime.

The project began with the partnership of the Detroit Police Department with eight gas stations that installed or already had high definition video surveillance equipment set up around their facilities. In addition, the police department and the city also assigned staff to receive, monitor, and analyze video feeds from the various partnering locations. The connected video platform is the Genetec™ Stratocast™ cloud-based video surveillance solution. By leveraging Microsoft Azure, Genetec is able to provide a highly flexible solution for DPD to easily scale the available storage capacity of their surveillance system and eliminate the need to invest in additional servers. The partnering locations transmit live footage to the Detroit Police Department’s downtown headquarters, where it can be monitored by a 40-member police unit. This footage helps officers catch criminals after the fact and search for suspects. It also allows them to pay extra attention to areas where criminal patterns seem to be emerging or where crimes typically occur.

“One of the fundamental elements of any ‘Smart City’ is a ‘safe city’. All communities strive to live in a safe environment—where businesses and citizens alike can thrive and move through their city without fear of crime or danger. By utilizing today’s smart networks, the cloud, and connected technologies, communities, such as Detroit, can connect public and private resources, and most importantly, people, to accomplish this common goal.”  Christian Morin, Vice President of Cloud Services and Cybersecurity, Genetec Inc.

The Result: Increase in public and business safety

In a recent press conference, the Mayor of Detroit stated that since the launch of Project Green Light, violent crime has gone down by up to 50 percent.

As a result of the project’s success, other businesses namely convenience stores, fast food restaurants, liquor stores and numerous gas stations are now keen to join. The good news? The city and technology partners are making it easier for them to do so. The list of other US cities interested in implementing the project is growing rapidly. The ultimate success of the project is measured in the reduction in crime and the peace of mind that the flashing green light provides. It assures residents  that it is ok to venture out past 10pm to get milk, gas, or dinner.

For more information on how Axis and Genetec are collaborating to help create safer cities, visit our Safe Cities microsite.