Officers from the New York Police Department are one step ahead of the bad guys now – all with the help of a smartphone app.

The officers simply type in a building’s address to access a wealth of information – from the names of residents with an open warrant, to apartments with domestic incident reports. The officers can even access the nearest video surveillance camera and view the footage on their device.

It’s just one example from a myriad of possibilities made real by digital solutions and the rollout of 4G.

I want to see the UK’s police force using these same technical innovations. Currently, out-dated, paper-based processes slow officers down, so it’s my job to help instil confidence in digital methods so our police can be safer and more efficient.

4G means smarter working

Smarter working is a key concern for all emergency services, with budget cuts meaning forces have to do more with less, in some cases sharing resources across the services.

4G supports this objective and we’re in the middle of developing three game-changing proof of concept applications to demonstrate the technology’s potential. I’m really excited about what these mean for the sector – let me explain.

  • A scene of crime app we’re working on will let police officers capture and tag evidence digitally and even capture fingerprints without having to return to the station.
  • Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) that uses 4G means higher quality images can be streamed, not just of the number-plate, but of the entire vehicle and its surroundings too. Speeding up the capture of criminals.
  • Our third proof of concept is particularly exciting. Using augmented reality, coupled with GPS, police officers will be able to hold up their smartphone to access all the criminal data for that area. Helping officers to avoid unknowingly walking into risky situations.

And so much more is possible.

Like pop-up policing in public spots where police previously had no way to securely access their network, such as shopping centres or at football stadiums.

Or radio-frequency identification (RFID) tagging to monitor equipment that goes in and out of the station or police cars – sending an alert if anything gets left behind, like road cones or stingers. Helping to maintain stock, saving money.

Real-time, high-quality video, from body cameras or CCTV, could be streamed to officers’ devices. And portals could be used to allow citizens to upload captured videos footage – getting more crime detail to the police, faster.

In practice

These are the possibilities, but there are police forces already making simple changes while they wait for 4G to roll out. West Midlands Police has been using social media to engage with citizens in Tipton, sending updates to let people know where police officers will be and when. This has helped make officers on the beat more visible.

And The Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit has set up a Twitter feed, which is updated with the movements of their helicopters. It aims to reassure people of their presence in the sky and reduce the number of complaints about noise.

Any police force can now quickly and easily engage with the public – but the key is making it a two-way conversation.

To find out how digital methods and 4G could benefit your service or to get advice on developing a social media strategy, contact your Account Manager or call Matt Worth on 01235 433 507.

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