Can Public Safety Be Improved Through Citizen Engagement?
In cities around the globe, police officers and public safety officials work to ensure the safety of millions of residents—a prospect that must often feel daunting.
Consider the fact that one of the world’s largest municipal police forces—New York City—includes more than 34,000 officers. And yet there is still only a 247-to-1 ratio of officers to each of the city’s 8.4 million residents. This reality leaves officers challenged to keep up with citizens on both routine days and particularly during emergencies.
With so many people witnessing and experiencing almost daily incidents in their city, a growing number of officials realize the potential benefits of including citizens in public safety initiatives. One of the best ways to do this is through “crowdsourcing,” which involves engaging and enabling private citizens to help public safety professionals address daily hazards and suspicious activities, natural disasters, terror attacks, crime or vandalism by reporting information in a convenient and accessible way using their smartphones. In many programs, citizens can submit such reports anonymously using a laptop or desktop computer.
Several factors have aligned to make now the ideal time to harness the potential of crowdsourcing. More citizens use smartphones and social media than ever before. They go about their daily lives and collect valuable information and video on both routine occurrences—such as traffic-accident-causing delays—and on extraordinary events, such as the Boston Marathon bombing.
Meanwhile, more cities are employing situational management technologies and techniques that help lay the foundation for crowdsourcing campaigns. Today’s command-and-control platforms allow officials to gather data from social media sites, anonymous tips and even special public safety apps that enable real-time event reporting and live video streaming directly to first responders.
Correlating these citizen reports with incoming data from other systems, such as video surveillance, traffic monitoring, gunshot detection sensors, weather reports, etc., allows officials to gain a better understanding of what is happening at any moment, as well as trends that may emerge over time.
By leveraging these “eyes on the street,” cities help to create more engaged citizens, while also gaining intelligence from the public on incidents not limited to 911 emergencies. This helps to improve situational awareness and incident response across a range of incidents. Around the world, crowdsourcing initiatives are being implemented in the form of “see something, report something” campaigns, Amber Alert tips, post-incident evidence gathering and more.
Crowdsourcing is also useful for personal protection and real-time response. For example, several people can simultaneously report that a riot is developing and getting out of control—so then police can respond faster and more effectively.
As we explore in our new whitepaper, “Putting Personal Safety Back in the Hands of Citizens,” crowdsourcing offers unique public safety opportunities that cities around the world can begin to leverage to increase citizen engagement. Through crowdsourcing, officials can achieve better and up-to-the-minute situational awareness, speed incident response and evidence collection, and improve the public’s perception of safety, security and community involvement. Crowdsourcing is one of those rare win-win opportunities—poised to benefit both city officials and the citizens they serve.
To discover three strategies for greater citizen engagement, click here to download “Putting Personal Safety Back in the Hands of Citizens.”
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