Every October, government agencies, schools, businesses and civil society organizations take time to spread awareness and search for new opportunities on how to prevent crime. How is new law enforcement technology contributing to the nation-wide effort to prevent crime?
The National Crime Prevention Council founded Crime Prevention Month in 1984. Since then, individuals and communities have marked the month of October as a time to reflect on crime prevention tactics that can keep both property and neighborhoods safe. In conjunction with local communities, law enforcement officials actively pursue new methods and tools for measuring and countering crime at the local, state, and national levels.
To assist law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) offers tools to mitigate crime and aid smart policing strategies.
The Chicago LTE pilot project is exploring how to assimilate real-time law enforcement video data within an urban setting over the public safety broadband. S&T’s Chicago LTE video illustrates how the project generates a complete picture of a crime, as it occurs, to give law enforcement the added edge and situational awareness they need to respond.
S&T’s recent Video Quality in Public Safety (VQiPS) workshop held in Newark, New Jersey, released an After Action Report last June. It examined the current capability gaps within the realm of video technology and how emerging technologies from private industry are impacting everything from new body cameras worn by officers to license plate readers.
Another element is the challenge of funneling vast amounts of video footage over the existing Digital Television Spectrum. Video Datacasting allows for law enforcement to receive encrypted data pertaining to incident reports and contains a range of information, including building blueprints and live security footage, freeing first responders of dependence on other communication channels that can be overwhelmed. Two pilot projects in Houston and Chicago were conducted, and a third location is currently being selected for 2016.
Even regular handheld devices can make an impact. The public is increasingly taking a proactive role through social media. S&T’s Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) serves as a forum for first responder agencies nationwide to test and collaborate on how to best use social media tools for enhancing public safety.
Lieutenant Zach Perron, the Public Affairs Manager with the Palo Alto Police Department, explained, "Social media as a crime prevention tool can be a force multiplier for government agencies. The two-way nature of social media facilitates dialogue between the community and the government, and offers the opportunity to clarify crime prevention information, answer questions and, in so doing, hopefully improve trust."
Perron also touched on how the VSMWG was making an impact among community stakeholders, "The cross-disciplinary composition of the VSMWG allows the group to draw on their diverse experience to provide best practice recommendations on the use of social media, including as it pertains to crime prevention."
Law enforcement officers and citizens now have access to new apps on their tablets and phones that increase awareness and help mitigate gang activity. The Gang Graffiti Automatic Recognition and Interpretation (GARI) system is one such example. People in affected communities can also coordinate with officers to identify graffiti images.
With more resources now available for law enforcement, it could become overwhelming for responders to sort through all the additional information. The DHS Visual Analytics for Command, Control, and Interoperability Environments Center of Excellence has developed tools such as its Visual Analytics Law Enforcement Technology (VALET), which compiles and correlates years of criminal, traffic and civil data.
Other branches of the government offer resources and opportunities as well. The National Institute of Justice has critical information for community leaders when it comes to crime mapping. Understanding crime maps and hot spot areas could help locate specific places where police efforts should be concentrated.
The Smart Policing Initiative (SPI) was founded by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to identify and award grants to law enforcement agencies in the United States. These recipients then generate a sample of the types of crimes and environments that are encountered by local police departments in an effort to collect and analyze data for evidence-based policing solutions.
Crime prevention does not just depend on technology. Together with local law enforcement, first responders, and community leaders, you can do your part to aid in crime prevention by staying aware of your surroundings, report suspicious activity, and get to know your local law enforcement officers. Sharing information and tips with law enforcement can lead to the prevention of criminal activities. Homeland Security tip lines are available to the public.
To learn more about how to take part in National Crime Prevention Month programs and activities, visit the National Crime Prevention Council’s program website.
For questions on S&T’s law enforcement technology, please contact First.Responder@hq.dhs.gov.