Safer Cities

Safer Cities

As populations increase so do the complexity of challenges related to crime, traffic and more

A lot has changed in cities around the globe in the last few years. According to the United States Census Bureau, population densities across the United States continue to shift from larger established metropolitan areas to smaller cities and into the suburbs. This is increasing the number of urban centers with sizeable populations.

Complex Challenges
As the numbers of new arrivals continue to increase in these locations, so do the number and complexity of challenges they face relative to crime, traffic, municipal services, public schools and housing. These are all longstanding issues that often drive people to relocate and are now emerging across an even larger number of cities and municipalities.

Fortunately, more cities continue to implement new advanced technologies to collect data for applications ranging from law enforcement, traffic and crowd control to environmental management, public services and operations management. With the continued deployment of advanced software management platforms and intelligent edge devices, data is being collected and processed from a myriad of public and private sources.

Integrated physical security systems continue to be one of the most efficient and effective ways to achieve wide-area situational awareness. In fact, many locations around the world have followed the early examples set by cities such as London or New York, where cameras provide coverage of areas that would otherwise require on-site personnel to observe events and behaviors.

Breakthroughs in physical security systems, such as integrated video and access management platforms, cameras with artificial intelligence (AI), and mobility solutions like in-vehicle camera systems and body-worn cameras, continue to revolutionize the way cities protect and serve the public. In addition to greatly increasing overall security and safety, these systems are providing new sources of data to enhance public services and the quality of life for residents.

Using Video as a Proactive Solution
The quantity and quality of video cameras deployed plays a huge factor in their collective effectiveness. When properly deployed across a centralized surveillance network, public officials effectively and easily monitor even the largest and busiest municipalities. Internet protocol (IP) video has become more affordable than ever and is the best option for installing a new system or upgrading an existing one.

Having a robust, extensive security camera network feeding into a centralized command center provides greater visibility of potential trouble and increases the ability to respond quickly and appropriately. An enterprise-grade VMS can support thousands of IP cameras with an unlimited number of authorized clients able to access live and recorded footage across the network.

Video analytics, whether embedded at the edge or implemented centrally via a VMS, add new levels of intelligent functionality to surveillance systems. With the addition of AI, these systems are quickly evolving from being reactive to proactive solutions.

This is increasingly evident given the wide range of AI-driven analytics readily available, including audio analytics for gunshot and scream detection, video analytics for intruder, loitering and cross-line direction, scene change indication to alert system administrators of possible camera tampering, people and vehicle classification, and facial recognition. These smart analytics lead to a wide variety of applications beyond conventional security.

Facial recognition, for example, helps authorities match a person’s face to a database of enrolled faces to help identify known criminals. Additionally, video redaction allows law enforcement to blur the faces of persons who have no connection to an incident, when video footage is released to the public. This protects the privacy of innocent parties and saves valuable search and response time.

Analytics can also capture and process license plates, as well as track service and public transportation vehicles passing through a city or municipality. This can improve municipal services greatly as it aids in the recovery of stolen vehicles, the apprehension of people with outstanding arrest warrants or the identification of a person of interest.

Greater Situational Awareness and Documentation
Police departments nationwide are under intense pressure to capture and maintain precise documentation of incidents and events. This is as much a security and safety issue as it is protection against false claims and lawsuits for cities and municipalities.

With the use of new digital technologies, police departments can maintain the integrity of evidence that benefits both citizens and law officers. Gaining situational awareness is critical in helping officers in the field make informed decisions when responding to calls. For example, the adoption of body-worn cameras by police departments is essential for both evidence documentation and risk mitigation.

Body-worn cameras record both video and audio to internal storage drives as well as removable memory cards. The footage can be quickly uploaded and stored on-premises or in the cloud. This allows law enforcement officials to quickly collect and release body-cam footage to the public in high-profile incidents.

Improving Traffic Flow and Safety
The same video surveillance networks used by police for public safety or city administrators to monitor city services are also ideal traffic-management applications. This is proving to be highly effective in cities around the world for improving traffic flow while also addressing the safety concerns of bicyclists, pedestrians and commuters using public transportation. For example, traffic cameras can detect wrong-way drivers, triggering roadside alerts such as flashing signs, and alert authorities on the ground to intervene before accidents occur.

Keeping Schools and Campuses Safe
With school violence all too common in municipalities throughout the United States, securing schools, colleges and universities is paramount. This requires integrated physical security systems that allow security staff to know the status of a given school or campus at all times. The ability to prevent assailants or predators from gaining access to schools and campuses is essential for the safety of students, teachers and staff.

Access-control software plays a vital role in these situations; capabilities such as door scheduling, user management, reporting and lock-down functionality help secure academic institutions from attacks. Intelligent video systems can also automatically identify known criminals and offenders and issue alerts when specific scenarios occur in real time, such as when someone enters an area that is off-limits or when a gun or knife is detected.

It is also important to have intelligent integrated systems that can easily share a site's layout, cameras and recorded evidence with local law enforcement in the event of an incident. In fact, local law enforcement can add a user to a school or campus system, which allows them to monitor unfolding events remotely and on scene when responding to incidents.

Empowering cities and municipalities with intelligent integrated systems makes them smarter, safer and more livable. As cites and municipalities across the nation adapt to migrating populations, the need for smarter and more secure cities will remain a high priority regardless of their geographic location. Implementing the right technology solutions with the right partners is the key to success.

This article originally appeared in the September / October 2021 issue of Security Today.

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