Community Oriented Policing is a strategy being pursued by Police Departments across the country. Building closer ties and trust between Law Enforcement agencies and communities leads to the participation of residents and businesses in crime reduction activities, creating safer towns and cities.
A lot of the initiatives being pursued involve Law Enforcement Officers going into the community to have face-to-face interactions with residents, which can be effective. But these activities are also extremely time consuming and often don’t meet the real goal of crime mitigation. By using various technologies as a force multiplier however, Police Departments can involve their communities in crime reduction programs that really make a difference,and not necessarily at a high cost.
Here are 5 easy to implement tech strategies that will enhance your Police Department’s ties to the community you serve.
(1) Build An Effortless Mobile Experience For Sharing Tips About Criminal Activity
Investigating criminal activity is easier by far with community participation. The three keys to gaining intel from the community usually tend to be immediacy, convenience, and anonymity. A well designed mobile tips experience can deliver all three.
Let’s start with immediacy- the sooner a witness can deliver intel to the Police, the greater the likelihood it will be more accurate. And the easier we make it for them to deliver that intel, the more we increase the chance of them actually coming forward, before they think about it and decide not to get involved. Mobile devices are perfect for this, as tips can be delivered immediately after the fact, from the scene of the incident.
Which brings us to convenience. The truth is, many people won’t go out of their way to get involved with the Police, and the threat of having their phones subpoenaed or having to appear in the station or in court is enough to turn them away. Your tips line needs to be quick and easy to use,and incorporating multimedia text capabilities and/or an app that easily transmits pictures and video is likely to get many more hits.
And finally, anonymity. Witnesses to criminal activity often fear for their safety if they come forward. A forthcoming witness is always better, but we don’t want to miss out on the chance to gain some great intel even if the witness does not want to be known. Your tips text messaging service and mobile app should allow for witnesses to send in tips anonymously, to protect their identities.
Of course, to get the most out of your tips capabilities,running a public promotional campaign is smart way to get the members of your community involved and spread the word.
(2) Build A Community Map Of Camera Locations& Encourage The Sharing Of Live Feeds
Live or recorded video is an investigator’s friend. Police Departments often utilize city owned cameras, or have investigators going out on foot to canvass areas to see where the nearest cameras are located to a crime scene. Why not take the legwork out of it by building a public/private camera registry?
By getting members of the public to register their camera locations on a secure map online, it’ll save time for the Police Department, as well as enabling residents and businesses to get more out of their security equipment investment.
With a public camera registry, investigators can simply request footage from camera owners around the crime scene via email or text message, and have them upload footage to a secure online folder, saving both parties time and effort. It’s a crowd sourcing approach to crime prevention, and it works.
Better still, gaining a live feed from privately owned cameras is a real-time approach to crime prevention that will both create a deterrent, as well as enabling your officers to intervene while a crime is still in progress. This type of technology is now available without major hardware or setup expenses, and is a fast and easy way to build a real-time crime prevention network.
(3) Utilize Social Media To Build Ties To The Community
Social media, if done right, is a low-effort, low-expense way to engage members of the community that officers might otherwise never encounter. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all ways to not only engage and inform the community, but also give them a behind-the-scenes look into the Police Department that allows them to better understand the people and processes at the department. Remember- people are more likely to help you, if they like and trust you.
Social media is also a great way to crowd source tips, inform the public about upcoming events, connect with community members during mass-casualty incidents and natural disasters, and showcase the successes of the police department.
The keys to a successful social media presence for a Police Department are (a) Maintaining a respectful and professional tone (b) Having a bit of fun to engage users (though not necessarily at the expense of community members) (c) Maintaining accuracy and integrity in your messaging (d) NOT being antagonistic or having online arguments with members of the community, and (e)Following up in a timely manner on questions, concerns, or tips sent to your social media account.
(4) Build A More Responsive & Connected 911 Experience
Say what you will about the Police, when the chips are down,everyone calls 911. Building a better 911 experience gets to the heart of modern policing, and is the single most important way you can better serve your community.
One of primary ways you can do this is by equipping your officers with a greater degree of situational awareness BEFORE they arrive on the scene. This works better from a community relations standpoint, as it allows for a proportional response to the situation at hand. For example, an active shooter situation at a school requires a very different response than a fight or a disruptive student. By encouraging the sharing of live video feeds (as suggested in tip #2 above) for example, 911 operators can dispatch the required number of officers, and responding officers can be better prepared to use whatever force or de-escalation tactics are appropriate to the situation at hand.
Camera sharing and more detailed tips also generates the required intel necessary to triage emergency response, especially for departments that may not have the resources to respond to all the emergency calls they are receiving at the same time. By maintaining low response times for the highest priority emergencies, and responding proportionately with the right resources,a city can build greater confidence in its Public Safety infrastructure and officers.
(5) Use Technology To Demonstrate Accountability & Transparency
Finally, building a culture of mutual trust and accountability is the bedrock of community policing. Police Departments should work towards greater transparency, (as long as it does not impede operational security or officer safety) to build trust within their community.
Transparency comes in many forms, but the proper utilization of body cameras, publishing more data and statistics around criminal activity online for pubic consumption, as well as the publication of Police Department response metrics will all help the community better understand the work the Department is doing.
Social media and online forums are a great way to publicize this information, as well as requesting the help of the community to mitigate criminal activity in their neighborhoods. One example is using data analysis to identify problem areas, and then calling upon the public to use suggested techniques to address those issues. This is a great way to both collaborate with the community, as well as give them a stake in their own safety and security.
At the end of the day, it’s all about trust and collaboration- by utilizing the right technology tools and strategies, Police Departments can better engage residents and businesses to create a real force-multiplier against criminal activity.
Do you have any other ideas about how Police Departments can use new technologies to build bridges to the communities they serve? We’d love to hear from you! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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