Crime Prevention by Breaking Down Doors

2_doors_parc (4)One of the greatest potentials for crime prevention today is currently closed and barricaded. It’s the door between law enforcements agencies and citizens provided by social media, and we need to break it down. Let me explain.

Crime is a major topic on neighborhood social media. Take a look at what your neighbors are discussing on or local Yahoo! Groups and you’ll find public safety concerns are one of the most frequent topics. Discussions range from reports by victims of burglaries to questions about a suspicious salesman currently knocking on doors. The information is incredibly rich with ubiquitous cell phone cameras and the increase in home video monitoring. Neighbors also exchange intelligence on how criminals are operating locally. Lookup “distraction burglaries” and I guarantee you will change the way you answer your front door.

These discussions inevitably lead to the question of what police are doing about crime.

Police are doing a lot to improve their crime prevention capabilities, although these efforts may not be so visible to the public. PARC has been granted incredible access behind the thin blue line by forward-thinking police chiefs and sheriffs during the last 12 months. We have spent over 200 hours on the streets following officers and deputies and many more working back at the station with crime analysts and detectives. The profession works hard to analyze crime and not only track down criminals, but also dynamically adjust enforcement tactics to prevent crime in the future. PARC is working with Xerox to develop a new generation of analytics products exploiting big data technologies to improve both enforcement and prevention of crimes.

But here is where we arrive at the door we must break down. It’s the barrier between the real-time flow of information from citizens on social media to their local law enforcement agencies. While other industries have embraced social media to improve their customer service capabilities, even the most forward-thinking police departments  and social networks have not yet seen that this is a huge opportunity.

The more information the police have the better they can connect the dots. The more information the public has the better they can take action to protect themselves. Take the example of the cell phone picture of the person knocking on doors. Imagine smart software that matches that picture with known criminals and recent crimes. Where there is a match it automatically alerts the officers working that beat and sends texts to those in the neighborhood to make sure their doors are locked. It’s a win-win for the good guys.

The raw technology is already here – just consider how quickly celebrity news is tweeted, pinned, and Facebooked. The challenge is in adapting it to respect the public’s privacy and the professionalism of law enforcement.

This door needs to open. Here at PARC we see the potential and we’re working on it.

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