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Bringing the human element to urban safety


In 2012, one European country reported losses of $1.2 billion from shoplifting alone. Small crimes by themselves might seem unimportant, but taken together they can have a major impact on our communities – these minor crimes can degrade citizens’ sense of safety in urban areas.

Technology enables deployment of remote sensors to gather information that can help reduce crime, but a human component is needed for this to be fully effective. An evaluation by the Urban Institute studying the impact of public surveillance in three cities found that “cameras can have a significant and cost-effective impact on crime,” but it also included a caveat: “While cameras hold promise as an effective crime prevention tool, it is important to note that their impact is not a given.” Their effectiveness depends on, among other things, how they are monitored and integrated into law enforcement activities, and the skills of the persons monitoring them. Applying a cloud e-learning platform to training for proactive security can enable citizens to become “human sensors,” improving their own security and that of those around them in an urban environment.

Law enforcement and citizens alike can become actors in driving urban safety to the next level by enhancing the impact of surveillance technology. Studies by the International Security & Counter-Terrorism Academy (ISCA) conducted for the European Commission conclude that identification of key signals and early intervention in crime can prevent escalation. One tool enabling identification is a proactive training model called Search Detect React® from the SDR Academy. By extending to citizens the training programs created for law enforcement, citizens can become the next link in urban safety. By looking out for themselves, individuals also are looking out for their fellow citizens, increasing the overall safety of their communities.

The SDR model focuses on awareness as a catalyst for prevention rather than reaction to crime. It uses local behavior profiling to detect abnormal behavior before it becomes harmful. Training is tailored for each environment and the protocols have been adopted by many public and private organizations. Although SDR is designed for use in crowds and large events, once learned it can be used in any environment to protect to protect the user and others. Recent studies of European cities have shown that training stakeholders in spotting behavioral anomalies increases their ability to identify and prevent small crimes, increasing citizen perceptions of safety and achieving safety by design.

To enable the widespread training needed to take full advantage of this technique, a cloud-based urban training e-learning platform is being developed by SDR Academy as a way to reach citizens, travelers and other security stakeholders. It will provide targeted training and refreshment programs to allow identification and early intervention in potential crimes, creating safer communities and contributing to the goals of Microsoft’s Safer Cities initiative, which employs a suite of CityNext solutions to improve governments’ operational effectiveness as well as engage citizens.

The ability to connect a cloud platform to e-learning and to analyze insights for developing predictive crime analytics will be the foundation for the next generation of academic research in establishing a sustainable safety model for cities, by and for their citizens.