In our data-dependent society, people tend to believe that collaboration and information sharing are common activities among public safety agencies. The public would be surprised to discover that an enduring characteristic of law enforcement is that agencies tend to do their work in silos.

Data sharing has since undergone a fascinating evolution. Twenty years ago, very few departments could share information with neighboring law enforcement agencies in real time. And few were interested in operating on shared dispatch or records systems – even if each agency’s system could be completely partitioned and their information protected from unauthorized view. Today, more and more agencies are recognizing the importance of data sharing, the need for collaboration and the ability to coordinate public safety responses in real time. However, even as law enforcement agencies reap the benefits of data sharing, a new problem has emerged: information overload.   

The Problem: Too much data

Public safety personnel live in a world where it’s no longer about getting information; it’s about getting accurate, timely and actionable information. Law enforcement and public safety personnel are often overwhelmed with information, from body-worn cameras to security cameras to cell phones – and that’s just video. Dispatchers, officers, first responders and other public safety personnel need ways to sort through mountains of video footage, license-plate readers (LPR), voice recordings, digital sensors and data from multiple databases, including dispatch and records.

The Solution: Address evolving needs

More collaboration, connectivity and coordination are needed between communities, the private sector and agencies as the number of data sources and technologies grow. The solution to information overload is by streamlining visibility from all relevant data sources, then putting the useful information on one pane of glass. By navigating a single application, analysts can see every data source from multiple, disparate systems in one place, while monitoring the health of their community in real time, just like the dashboard in a car. 

Strategic decision support centers and real-time crime centers can monitor situations as they unfold with robust, useful intelligence from a myriad of connected devices, making it easier for law enforcement to respond with appropriate resources in real time and solve crimes more efficiently.

The Outcome: A complete paradigm shift

Information overload can be a serious hindrance to public safety personnel. CentralSquare Citigraf, powered by Genetec, can solve the problem of information overload. Citigraf ensures agencies make the best possible decisions based on the most relevant data available, whether the source is a computer aided dispatch system, an address alert from records management, a shot detection notification or camera footage from a private video system at a gas station. Data from multiple sources such as a network of city-owned cameras, public/private LPR systems and sensor data are visible in a single application with the ability to search for events or devices by simply viewing a map of the community. Playback from any connected camera feed, including saved footage from a specific time period, is instantly available to help identify suspicious activity and solve crimes. Information from this multitude of different data sources can be viewed on a workstation, tablet or phone.

Many communities have public and private camera systems, sensor data and multiple databases where each separate component tells part of the story of an incident. The goal of public safety is to build an information-sharing model that takes data from each of these disconnected systems to create a visually appealing, digestible method of situational awareness where every data source is searchable and viewable in real time. Data sharing on this level can contribute to a measurable reduction in crime, utilizing only the current staff and resources of an agency.

The Solution to Fixing Information Overload in Law Enforcement

The power behind this degree of information accessibility can result in a mayor proudly proclaiming to her fellow citizens that by working smarter, their city has seen a measurable reduction in crime. Equipping real-time crime center analysts and public safety personnel with these types of tools can create the rare instance where crime reduction is the result of optimizing technology. Now, instead of stating, “We are hiring several additional officers,” and hoping that there is a long-term reduction in crime, elected officials can speak definitively about the specific impact of this powerful tool.

By enabling instant, useful sharing not only between public safety agencies, local businesses and the public, but also directly between law enforcement throughout a region, a paradigm shift occurs. Information overload becomes actionable information, and being overwhelmed by data becomes using data to make timely, accurate decisions that keep communities safe.