Eurosatory 2014

The urban security landscape – challenges, risks and policing needs (ES14E1)

16 June 2014

With more than half of the world’s population already living in cities and with the urban population set to increase to more than 70 per cent by 2020, cities around the world face new challenges.

As cities of today represent the economic might of their nations and compete to attract more global talent and investments, they also become hubs and targets of anti-social, criminal, illegal and terrorist activities.

In many cities across the world, high crime and violence rates are undermining growth, threatening human welfare and impeding social development.

The challenges and risks As cities continue to grow, law enforcement agencies and first responders have to deal with increasingly sophisticated and anonymous threats and risks to citizens, businesses and infrastructure, all this while dealing with economic pressures to reduce policing resources and do more with less.

Economic limitations, coupled with legacy security infrastructure and privacy issues, present a huge challenge to law enforcement agencies and first responders when it comes to effectively tackling crime and responding to threats.

Keeping cities safe involves not only crime prevention, but also the capability to keep cities resilient to natural disasters and the ability to respond effectively to such incidents.

Different cities around the world have exposure to different types and levels of threats and risks, have different levels of technology maturity and have different structures of governance, law enforcement and response mechanisms to threats and risks. Every city has its own unique blend of challenges and needs its own strategy and approach to tackle security issues. A strong amalgamation of technology, concept of operations and collaboration, unique to every individual city, is required to establish an effective framework for tackling crime and terror.

The technology issue Solutions and technologies for public safety and security are constantly evolving.

Managing obsolescence while deploying advanced solutions and technologies is vital to effectively manage a technology deployment strategy and to establish intelligence-led policing. The key challenges that law enforcement agencies face today include:

  1. Disparate systems that impede data sharing;
  2. Presence of huge legacy infrastructures which present integration and obsolescence management challenges;
  3. Lack of modern and advanced sensors to provide surveillance inputs;
  4. Lack of analytical capability to deal with Big Data;
  5. The lack of platforms that connect citizens to law enforcement agencies.

In several cities around the world, advanced technologies are providing the police and other law enforcement and first responder agencies with new tools to keep cities safer by acting as a force multiplier, and enabling policing resources to go further and be productive in tackling crime.

However, the deployment of technology is often bogged down as a result of privacy issues, budgetary constraints and the lack of willingness and co-ordination between agencies – resulting in a lack of complete situational awareness and a lack of ability to provide a co-ordinated response to natural and man-made disasters in urban environments.

A variety of concepts, tools and solutions can empower police forces and other law enforcement agencies to deter, detect and respond to crime and other security issues impacting cities. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Integrated command and control solutions which would allow sharing and dissemination of intelligence across various agencies thereby providing shared situational awareness;
  • Communication solutions such as 4G LTE and SATCOM, which can allow deployment of sensors in areas where physical communication networks are difficult to deploy and allow better quality of information sharing on the move, thereby enabling faster decision-making and response times;
  • Advanced analytical solutions which allow law enforcement agencies to sift through huge volumes of sensor, human intelligence and even social medial intelligence and help identify patterns of threats and filter out false alarms. Such solutions are supplemented by advanced video analytics solutions that are capable of providing behavioural alerts and facial recognition;
  • Smartphones have also begun to play a vital role by connecting citizens with law enforcement agencies. Several police forces around the world now have apps that allow citizens to report crime and communicate with their local police forces, thereby allowing police forces to gain vital realtime intelligence from citizens;
  • Unmanned systems are also being increasingly sought and deployed by law enforcement agencies around the world for aerial surveillance and crowd surveillance purposes. The proliferation of unmanned systems is expected to continue.

The above are just a few examples of various technologies that are available and are adopted by police forces and law enforcement agencies around the world and many more disruptive technologies exist that will change the face of urban policing in the years to come.

Policing needs While the fundamental principles of policing have not changed in centuries, the threat environment in which modern police forces operate today presents new challenges.

Dealing with ever evolving nontraditional threats and crimes is putting law enforcement agencies to the test, driving police forces to transform their approach to policing and ensure public safety.

In this new era of policing, its effectiveness will be determined by the ability of police forces and law enforcement agencies to engage with citizens using innovative solutions that will enable quicker response times. Empowering police forces by adopting advanced technologies such as mobile office solutions – which give officers real-time, secure access to the organisation’s centralised databases and analysis systems, from any location – will enable better situational awareness and response times and make forces more efficient.

New technologies enable police forces to optimise their organisations in the face of increasing economic pressures.

The adoption of advanced analytics will empower police officers to detect and prevent crime and deter threats more effectively by giving them advanced situational awareness, while integrated solutions and platforms will allow better information sharing and collaboration between various agencies.

Provision of such technological tools and resources to police forces and law enforcement agencies is vital to deal with the threats and risks facing urban environments and to transform the ability of law enforcement agencies worldwide.

(974 words)