Crime-Fighting Collaboration

You're no doubt familiar with many of the ways that technology aids law enforcement: video surveillance to keep watch over cities; mobile devices and networks that connect patrol officers with critical information; and gunshot detection systems and license plate readers to quickly alert police to problems.

All are useful crime-fighting technologies, but in many cases they can be used even more effectively. To make the most of public-safety investments, law enforcement agencies should consider better coordination/integration of their technology tools to deliver crossover benefits. Sharing the information these tools generate across jurisdictions helps public-safety organizations connect the dots to see the big picture.

Last year, $5.7 ­billion in federal grants was available for justice, public safety and homeland security, according to Input. Because most of the country's policing is done at the local level, many of those grants filtered down for technology improvements. But how can federal, state and local police maintain momentum with the deployed solutions and keep crime statistics down?

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office has the right idea with its Palm Beach Regional Fusion Center. The new Florida facility is outfitted with the latest cutting-edge technology, including facial recognition software and a 12-foot video wall for monitoring live feeds of county cameras. It's there that representatives from other county agencies gather with feds and analysts from Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties to collect and share information.

Although Palm Beach County officials originally designed the center to fight terrorism, they wisely recognized the opportunity to capitalize on an existing investment to identify patterns and trends in fighting everyday crime and to collaborate more closely with other local agencies.

City Smarts

Technology integration also benefits the nation's largest municipal force, the New York City Police ­Department. NYPD improved its ability to act on infor­mation siloed throughout the department by devel­oping the Crime Information Warehouse. Based on IBM DB2 and Cognos business intelligence software, CIW houses data on virtually all crimes committed in the five city boroughs.

Making the data available through an IBM WebSphere portal enables detectives and crime analysts to synthesize bits of information into actionable intelligence. By detecting crime patterns as they are forming, police can take proactive measures to prevent crime.

State and local law enforcement agencies with the equivalent of at least one full-time officer operating in the U.S.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies

No matter how big or small the agency, there's no question that collaboration speeds crime solving. Technology can help overcome lack of feet on the street with better information sharing. It's a force multiplier.

On the state level, Wisconsin's Justice Gateway gives hundreds of law enforcement agencies access to incident data such as traffic stops, citizen complaints and investigation notes. The intent is to improve information exchanges among criminal justice systems, which in turn improves the effectiveness and efficiency of decision-making.

Isn't that a goal all law enforcement agencies can agree on? Now's the time to use the technology we have and share the data it generates -- not only within our organizations but with other jurisdictions. Working together is the way to protect our communities.

Dec 23 2010