Recently, mission-critical operations centers have emerged to meet these technological and operational needs. MCOCs integrate data from different systems to help state and local governments make better decisions about public safety. A center will often incorporate technologies such as video walls, public and private security cameras, license plate readers, mapping software and gunshot detection systems to create a comprehensive picture that can dramatically speed up response times. These facilities are often focused on specific missions, such as real-time crime response, transportation and emergency operations.
The ability to analyze public safety data in real time has become critical to the success of law enforcement agencies.
In a Verizon survey, 55 percent of first responders said the use of data for situational awareness has been one of the strongest areas of technological improvement in public safety over the past 20 years. And 93 percent said coordination among agencies is critical when responding to public safety crises and emergency situations.
Houston Thomas III Senior Business Development Strategist and Public Safety Senior Strategist, CDW
Use Data to Build Consensus for MCOCs
Public safety leaders often face obstacles getting MCOCs up and running, says Houston Thomas III, a senior business development strategist and public safety senior strategist for CDW.
“Agencies often struggle to articulate their vision for a new, modernized operations center,” Thomas says. “In some cases, the mission hasn’t even been written down. As a result, plans for mission-critical operations can sometimes be met with indifference during budget planning.”
To build buy-in for MCOCs, law enforcement leaders can present city or county stakeholders with data about the benefits of using integrated information to improve public safety. For instance, RAND reports that real-time crime centers reduce crime by 3 to 17 percent. In Birmingham, Ala., police reported that violent crime was reduced by about 14 percent across the city after the introduction of a real-time crime center, with 70 arrests and 37 vehicle recoveries attributed to the new center during its first few months of operation. And in Detroit, robberies fell by 17 percent in the year after the city allowed businesses to install cameras that feed into Detroit’s real-time crime center.
Real-World Stories Demonstrate the Impact of MCOCs
Individual anecdotes can also help to sway civic leaders. Shortly after Newport News, Va., unveiled its real-time crime center, police used the system to locate a stolen vehicle 90 minutes after it was taken. Newport News police also reported that the city was able to catch homicides on video with the solution, and that the center has produced evidence resulting in plea deals or convictions in cases that otherwise might have been difficult to prosecute. These stories illustrate for civic leaders how an MCOC may help their own departments achieve similar results.
Thomas notes that the planning process for large events in a city — such as a national political party convention or a major sporting event — can also drive support for an MCOC. In other instances, Thomas says, public safety leaders might use the upcoming replacement of aging infrastructure to kick off discussions about integrating new solutions into a comprehensive operations center.
“The departments that are successful in achieving their modernization goals are typically those that have a plan and the ability to sell the concept,” Thomas says. “Regardless of the goal, success depends on being able to articulate the benefits of the solution. A well-thought-out strategy will win the day.”
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