In a resilient city, the average person doesn’t think about crime or terrorism. They feel safest going about their daily activities knowing that their municipalities are ready to respond to major incidents. From a security perspective, we know that the most effective responses are those that take a coordinated approach. We also know that, for a variety of reasons, many municipal stakeholders continue to work in silos.
All too often, business leaders, city planners, fire departments and law enforcement focus on their mandates to the exclusion of others. It makes sense: all of them are tending to important needs. But, unfortunately, this approach can lead to a breakdown in communication and missed opportunities. In the worst cases, it can create a lapse in security that could make their city and its citizens vulnerable to criminal activity.
But, by eliminating these silos and fostering strong communication, stakeholders can share information that allows them to quickly address evolving situations. They can also come together to develop proactive strategies that maintain safety and foster economic growth. By bringing together stakeholders from the public and private sectors, a city can leverage what each has to offer.
What Happens if Stakeholders Don’t Work Together?
Without coordination, response times can lag. In 2013, the city of Boston, Mass. was attacked during its annual marathon. It took four days from the time of the initial explosions to apprehend the two suspects. The response could have been faster if the city had pre-arranged relationships with more stakeholders from the private sector.
While it is easy to identify short-comings after the fact, we can be relatively confident that, if the city had been able to quickly access more private video, they would have been able to identify and track the suspects faster. Additionally, this type of access could have helped reduce public panic. As it was, the city itself was in a heightened state of emergency for four days while the suspects remained at large.
Coordinated Access is Key
From an organizational side, most cities have both the desire and infrastructure to aggregate data. This can allow them to develop strategies that address crime and improve the lives of their citizens. Many of these same cities, however, lack the data streams, particularly from video surveillance, necessary for developing a clear picture. This is where private businesses come in.
Private businesses are already collecting vast amounts of data in their security systems. They frequently have cameras both in and around their facilities and are monitoring for everything from criminal activity to patterns of behavior. Many are already using their physical security systems for their own after-incident investigations. But most don’t have the necessary reach to make larger connections with the surrounding environments.
Developing partnerships between stakeholders in the public and private sectors is essential for utilizing the data on a larger scale. But this isn’t always easy. One of the main challenges to creating these partnerships is establishing trust.
A cornerstone of trust is transparency. But it is difficult, if not impossible, to be transparent when you don’t know what you need. Cities can struggle in articulating what they want from businesses in terms of data because they can’t know in advance what will be required. This makes it hard to get buy-in from the private sector.
How Technology can Help Sustain Trust
The initial stages of trust-building often come down to everyone’s willingness to participate.
Once an initial foundation is established, technology can play an important role in sustaining and supporting its growth. The right platform and tools can ensure the continued effective collaboration between a city’s public and private sectors.
Technology allows business owners to share their video feeds securely. Knowing that only authorized personnel can access the data being collected by their physical security systems gives businesses peace of mind. And, at the same time, through encryption, authentication, authorization and auditing systems, both cities and businesses can be confident that no one can read their sensitive data.
Similarly, this type of technology can also enable schools to safely share their private video. This can be done in two ways. First, schools can allow law enforcement to access their video under specific circumstances, like an intrusion. Second, schools can anonymize individuals in video streams and then allow authorized personnel to view the unredacted footage. In addition to enabling collaboration, these solutions also help schools protect the privacy of their population, including and especially video images of young children.
Working in partnership, cities are better able to aggregate a wide variety of data to gain greater insights into their many environments. Municipal governments can use these insights to develop proactive policing, counter-terrorism and emergency management strategies to better serve and protect their citizens.
They can also push insights back to private businesses to help them improve profitability. For example, with the right technology, a city can analyze the flow of pedestrians and vehicles to get a clear picture of traffic on its street at different hours during the day. Businesses can then use these insights to develop sales strategies that take advantage of increased traffic in front of their stores during peak periods.
Ultimately, when the private and public sectors break down silos and develop trust-based partnerships, they can work together to improve safety and create opportunities for businesses to thrive. The result is a city where people want to work, play and live. Often unaware of the important relationships that allow this to happen securely.