Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Philadelphia PD Launches Real-Time Crime Center

The Philadelphia Police Department has recently made a major technological change in their policing.  They are now one of the ten police departments in the United States with a Real-Time Crime Center.  The Real-Time Crime Center is a 24-hour hub of video surveillance, databases and various other resources.

The center has been in the works for nearly four years, and has been in the planning stages for the last two.  As of last month, it is now up and running 24-hours a day.  The center collects surveillance camera data from throughout the city.  Officers in the center can see all of the video as well as are alerted to any 911 calls that are placed.  This gives them the ability to pull up camera images in real-time during the crime (or emergency).  This allows them to give officers in the field immediate pertinent information regarding the suspects' location and description.  

Along with using the city's surveillance system, the Real-Time Crime Center also has access to all of the SEPTA cameras.  Private residents are able to register their cameras as well through a program called SafeCam.  By registering your private surveillance cameras (of your home or business), the Philadelphia Police Department is aware that you may have captured evidence of a crime based on the location of your cameras.  According to the SafeCam website, you will only be contacted by the police department for footage in the event that it is likely you captured evidence.  Private citizens have the right to terminate their registration in this program at any time.

The center is also running automated license plate software.  Utilizing infrared light, the scanners are able to scan upwards of 400,000 plates per week.  Scanners work on vehicles traveling at speeds upwards of 140mph.  In the month that these scanners have been operational, the department has been able to recover 50 vehicles that had been reported stolen.

The center is still not 100% operational.  They are still in the process of developing a major database that will contain information on incidents, criminal complaints, arrest records and photographs, parole and probation databases, national crime databases, and crime mapping systems. Currently, navigating all of those databases can take officers 30 minutes or more.  Once the crime center's combined database is up and running, a thorough search of those databases should take online minutes.

To see how the Real-Time Crime Center works, check out this video from the NYPD.  They were the first city to develop a Real-Time Crime Center, and it made a significant impact on the crime rates in their city.

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