Real Tips for Curbing Crime to Cut Costs
Crime is a global problem that affects everyone in some way, impacting individuals and communities emotionally, physically and/or economically. In terms of the economic costs of crime, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability estimates that annual costs of crime in the United States range from $690 billion to $3.41 trillion. Some more obvious examples of the economic costs of crime include financial burdens, such as:
- Stolen or damaged property – for personal homes and for businesses;
- Medical treatment and/or mental health services required to treat victims who have suffered physical or psychological/emotional harm;
- Loss of productivity (victims may suffer disability, which leads to loss of job income; and local employers may lose revenue when their employees are affected by crime);
- Services from organizations (hospitals, counseling centers, etc.) that assist victims;
- Defensive and proactive protections, including burglar alarms or home security systems, or insurance investments to protect against theft.
In addition to these economic considerations, crime demands local resources and stunts city growth, deepening the impact of crime in ways that are harder to quantify. First of all, crime requires time and labor for employees of law enforcement and the criminal justice system to respond to and investigate a criminal incident, then to prosecute and, when relevant, imprison people. Second, a city or town’s reputation for high crime can discourage tourism and deter new residents or businesses.
Beyond the direct and indirect financial outcomes of perpetrating and solving crime are the emotional results of crime and – even more significant – the costs of failing to solve crime. When police are unsuccessful in solving a case, the entire community is impacted, their sense of security meaningfully diminished. Critical to the well-being of every city is a sense of trust in the local law enforcement. Where there is distrust in public safety, residents cannot enjoy a high quality of life and – more troubling – the local criminals might confidently perpetrate more crimes, without fear of being caught.
Smart Spending for Smart Cities
In light of such staggering costs, it’s no wonder that preventing and curbing crime is a major focus of cities, law enforcement and businesses. One approach to preventing crime and solving cases is to invest in security technologies. While it may seem paradoxical to spend money to reduce costs, wise technology investments in the short term can actually save cities money in the long run. There are ways that cities and law enforcement can spend strategically to lessen the financial impact on their municipal budgets.
When investing in security technologies, a good starting point is to invest in technologies that enhance existing infrastructure. An example of this is video surveillance and analytics: Many cities and towns have already invested in video surveillance camera networks to some extent, because video is one medium of evidence and intelligence, providing critical data for law enforcement. However, after investing in video surveillance infrastructure municipalities usually find the technology helpful yet insufficient because the amount of video to manually review is overwhelming and impossible to effectively scan. Their observations, and lack thereof, can be prone to human error. Between prioritizing the video snippets to watch and the resources to dedicate to video review, most video evidence goes under-utilized.
Maximizing Video Surveillance Networks with Video Content Analytics
The solution to these problems is to apply video content analytics (VCA), which leverages an existing network of video surveillance infrastructure. Powered by Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence, VCA technology processes video, identifies objects in the video footage (people, vehicles, and other items), and indexes them so that footage can be easily and quickly searched and analyzed. Video intelligence software enables law enforcement to quickly pinpoint relevant details, extract crucial data and accelerate investigation of open cases with the information mined from the footage. Over time, aggregated video data can be visualized into reports, dashboards and heatmaps, revealing trends that cities and law enforcement can use to understand criminal patterns and proactively respond to criminal behavior when indicators are detected.
Law enforcement can also use the system to increase situational awareness by triggering real-time alerts that are based on pre-defined conditions (such as vehicles, people of interest, count-based, specific camera viewing area, facial recognition, etc.) For example, in the case of a missing child, law enforcement must scan a city and region, determine whether a kidnapping occurred and search video for the child and, when relevant, a suspect, based on their physical descriptions. When a child goes missing and the perpetrator isn’t apprehended, the community stops trusting the police, and parents can’t confidently send their children outdoors. More police may be deployed, the family suffers emotional agony, and the community is gripped with fear. But with assistance from VCA technology, police can locate a child and suspect much more quickly and effectively; that alone is priceless in value. Furthermore, in terms of actual law enforcement costs it clearly saves valuable time for law enforcement personnel, which would otherwise be spent searching for a missing child. For incidents that involve kidnapping, resolving the crime with the use of video investigation software increases overall public safety and puts the public more at ease – mutually benefitting the recovered child, the police and the community at large.
More Effective Community Policing
Increasingly, police departments seek ways to be more effective at community policing by building trust within their local communities. The more effective they are at identifying crime patterns or apprehending suspects with sound evidence, the more trust they earn. Project Greenlight in Detroit, Michigan is a prime example of a city program that capitalizes on an extensive video surveillance network. The Detroit Police Department partnered with eight gas stations that have installed real-time camera connections with police headquarters as part of a ground-breaking crime-fighting partnership between local businesses, the City of Detroit and community groups called “Project Green Light Detroit.” The project is the first public-private-community partnership of its kind, blending a mix of real-time crime-fighting and community policing aimed at improving neighborhood safety, promoting the revitalization and growth of local businesses, and strengthening DPD’s efforts to deter, identify, and solve crime.
By cooperating with police and providing video recordings or access to live feeds, the gas station owners curb and deter violence or crime in their workplaces, and provide critical data for law enforcement. The DPD has posted a YouTube video that explains how the cameras prevented a crime at one particular gas station and, at another gas station, enabled police to analyze video from a gun incident and put the suspect in custody within two hours. Detroit’s Project Greenlight is just one example of how cities can invest in technology to proactively prevent and curb crime. It makes the cities not only safer, but also more attractive for living, visiting, opening businesses, etc., all of which yield positive economic benefits.
High Returns on Investment
Municipalities already spend valuable time and money to combat crime; it makes sense for municipalities to maximize their existing technology investments, and video surveillance is just one example. Video investigation technology accelerates investigations, improves situational awareness, and uncovers citywide trends and patterns: This is clearly a case where spending a little bit more money in the short run reaps vast benefits in the long run, from reducing crime to reducing its massive economic toll on victims, law enforcement agencies, the criminal justice system and municipalities. Most importantly, when a city spends less on recovering from the economic impacts of crime and unsolved crime, it has the freedom to consider how those savings can be reinvested in improving everyday life in the city to foster continued economic development and improved quality of life.