October is Crime Prevention Month

An answer to shrinking law enforcement staff: Arming citizens with tech

You’d be hard-pressed to find a public airport without a baggage screen or a business without a security system. And just as unlikely? A citizen without a mobile device, or two. Our devices are an organ we didn’t know we couldn’t survive without until it goes dead from a lack of charge or water mishap. That’s why we keep them always within reach on the off chance they aren’t already resting naturally in our grip.

Smart phones – good or bad – have streamlined virtually everything we do throughout the course of our day. How we work, play, consume and share information are ever dependent on our connectivity.

Tech in Uniform

In fact, the first high-speed nationwide wireless network entirely dedicated to public safety is currently being deployed by 21 states and two territories to help law enforcement, fire service, and EMS do their jobs safely and effectively, which means eliminating any chance for connectivity loss.

At the same time, law enforcement agencies across the country are facing reductions in their budgets. This unfortunately means dwindling staff and a hindered pace of technology adoption at a time when the case for more police presence is made during every nightly news broadcast.

Many large cities are installing CCTV cameras, in lieu of an officer, which provide video surveillance in locales beyond just the high-trafficked intersections. Similarly, more gunshot detection solutions are being deployed to provide real-time alerts to law enforcement when gunfire is detected aiding in response time and the hopeful removal of illegal guns.

Tech in Civilian Clothes

October is Crime Prevention Month and thereby a stage to shine light on a topic that every community must tackle. Citizen engagement can be a remarkable, yet commonly overlooked, line of defense against crime.

“If you see something, say something” may just be McGruff’s updated version of “Take a bite out of crime” made popular in the mid-1980s.

As citizens, it’s easier than ever to “say something.” Take a leisurely scroll through your social media of choice and you’ll find some variety of a citizen posted alert – whether a traffic backup, be on the lookout for a suspicious vehicle, or petition signature request for more street lights.

Social media has claimed its position as the tool of choice to not only have your voice heard but also tune in to what other voices are saying. A recent study by Pew Research Center reports that 62% of adults in the U.S. get news via social media.

With social media channels becoming increasingly cluttered, it can be cumbersome to get important and accurate information – such as crime details – into the right hands immediately. For example, if a concerned citizen witnesses what might be a burglary about to go down, he or she isn’t likely going to get far by posting a status update on Facebook, and messaging the local sheriff’s department’s Twitter account may reach the on-duty officer eventually albeit too late.

Emerging Tech for Citizen Engagement

The demand for real-time, direct, two-way communication is more evident with every missed notification on your smart phone.

That’s where technology specific to citizen engagement can streamline that process by empowering community members while strengthening law enforcement. Mobile apps like Bright City have citizen alert features that allow for reporting and receiving citizen-sourced and law enforcement verified information on crime, emergencies, scams and suspicious activity.

Adding more eyes and ears in the community to watch out for crime and dangerous situations is only valuable if information is effectively and accurately communicated. Bright City takes out the guess work and even eliminates possible erroneous information by packaging up exact GPS coordinates, photos, and text, and delivering it immediately to on-duty law enforcement.

It’s important that users can report information anonymously and/or receive information back regarding their reported crime or suspicious activity in real time. Responding to and hopefully preventing crime are the main goals for a citizen engagement app. A positive side effect with utilizing technology to open the lines of communication is growing the trust between law enforcement, elected officials and their citizens.

The answer to stretched-too-thin law enforcement? Crowdsourced wisdom of engaged citizens with the right tool at their fingertips. If you’d like to see the Bright City app available for your city or county, contact your local government and encourage them to adopt and implement the technology.

Bright City is an all-in-one citizen engagement app linking cities with residents making for safer and more connected communities. The city that clicks together sticks together. Learn more at brightcityapps.com.

Mary O’Brien
Mobile Science Technologies, Inc.
Glenlake Parkway NE, Suite 900
Atlanta, GA 30328
(904) 616-5322