How safe is your city?

Singapore. Image by Mike Enerio via Unsplash

Singapore, Copenhagen, and London residents: rejoice! Your city is a top public safety innovator.

A recent Brookings Institute study ranked 17 global cities according to public safety innovation and how digital technology can boost law enforcement effectiveness. Factors included metropolitan vision, digital infrastructure, safety effectiveness, safety adoption, data analytics, and community engagement.

One key insight: increasing digital infrastructure investments contributes to economic growth.

Another takeaway: data is essential to agencies. That’s especially true for law enforcement, which encounters both anticipated and unforeseen challenges — from violent crimes and neighborhood disputes to community engagement and homelessness — on a daily basis.

Top ranked cities all use data analytics to uncover insights across new digital technology such as body worn cameras, social media, and IoT sensors. And while technology is incredibly helpful at managing all that digital evidence, “there is now more data, more sources, and more formats to aggregate and analyze than ever before,” said Bill Josko, IBM’s GBS Public Safety Practice Leader for the U.S.

Curious about how innovation helps with public safety?

So what stops public safety agencies from seeing insights? For one, police systems are decentralized and fragmented, and not very good at sharing information with other jurisdictions, according to the report. Cities need to connect and modernize all their legacy systems to tackle complex crimes like human tracking.

At the same time, new technology brings in a flood of data, much of it unstructured — like video, photo, or audio files. And the amount of data is mind-boggling. Baltimore, Maryland alone will create more video data per year from body worn cameras than Netflix’s entire stream catalogue.

That’s where AI comes in, with its ability to sift through mountains of data.

“Augmented intelligence can help amplify an agency’s ability to see connections before, during, and after an event so they can act quickly and decisively,” said Bill Josko. “AI can look at thousands of hours of footage and images to determine if certain scenarios, for example, are just a family on vacation or something more sinister is happening.

With 70% of the world’s population living in cities by 2050 — bringing more people into potential conflict — public safety agencies will need to continue innovating to make their cities safer.