Most U.S. cities are currently experiencing historic lows in crime rates. However, at a time of shrinking budgets and resources, evolving threats such as acts of terrorism and natural disasters challenge cities and local law enforcement to achieve and maintain low crime rates.  

Innovative surveillance methods and technologies can provide targeted and more cost-efficient services that build safety and security capabilities and measurable success.  As city budgets are always tight, the acquisition of high-technology surveillance and security systems has been out of reach for most communities.  

However, creative public-private partnerships make it possible for communities to have access to surveillance technologies and analytics. A shining example is Atlanta’s Operation Shield, a partnership between the Atlanta Police Department and the Private Sector that has provided close to 5,000 cameras to be deployed from private sector and public sector participants to create a Safe City. (Read more about Operation Shield on page 42.)

So what constitutes a “Safe City?”  While there is no specific formula for Safe City best practices, there are baseline capabilities that public safety jurisdictions should start with. 


Security Cameras

Safe City initiatives typically start with the integration of security video. In most cases the cameras are operated by the police department or other local government entities such as Departments of Transportation, or Emergency Operations Centers. Increasingly, cameras are not limited to those controlled by government institutions.  More and more, private companies and commercial entities are using surveillance technologies and are increasingly providing law enforcement with  access to their cameras to increase domain awareness on public streets. 


Information-Driven Policing

However, cameras only provide a “static” view and can only do so much. This means that operators have to be directed independently if they are not continuously monitoring the camera feeds, and there is no protocol to initiate an “alarm” in the event of an incident.  Camera feeds coupled with additional technology has allowed more  monitoring centers to evolve to a “response mode” in which alarms or visual/video analytics direct operators to a camera in order to view real-time events.

Even with smarter monitoring, surveillance alone has in the past been limited to a reactive action – perpetrators still have the advantage.  Today there is an opportunity, more than any time in history, to integrate data correlation, analysis and predictive indicators to actually predict and prevent crime. Information-driven policing efficiently and effectively integrates camera and sensor technology with social media and big data analytics to enable a more predictive approach to security and policing.

Information-driven policing combines the power of big data, with social media analysis, license plate readers, geo-spatial location and correlation, facial recognition cameras, gunshot detectors and CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive) sensors to give police and private security forces the “knowledge advantage” to interdict crime before it becomes serious or to appropriately respond to a crime armed with a full understanding of all aspects of it. The challenges of today’s environment in which political and law enforcement leadership face man-made and natural disasters are in fact opportunities for a city to bring stakeholders together, create platforms for collaboration and information sharing, and identify efficiencies and cost savings.  


About the Author: Bob Liscouski has more than 30 years of experience in security and law enforcement, and is the founder and Managing Partner of Integrated Strategies Group. Liscouski and ISG have founded four additional firms  – Steel City Re, Edge360, Axio Global and Convergent Risk Group.