Police and law enforcement departments across the United States are now implementing a data-driven approach for tackling crime and increasing traffic safety. The new approach is considered very powerful and helpful in fighting crime. The new technique promises to be equally decisive in identifying and finding criminals as DNA forensics. It also provides information that will help the agencies prevent fatal traffic accidents and criminal activity on an everyday basis.
The new technology is termed as DATA Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety and is being referred to as DDACTS. It involves mounting three high-resolution digital cameras on the roof of a police car. The cameras are pointed forward and positioned to cover both sides of the car. The cameras are also be equipped with infrared lighting which would enable cops to see in the dark. The technology has integrated GPS service and the digitized pictures of license plates are instantly fed to a laptop inside the police vehicle. The technology costs $11,000 for each police vehicle and the investment seems to be paying off.
At the beginning of his or her shift, a police officer downloads the latest database of fugitive warrants, information about stolen cars, the latest database of wanted vehicles, federal and state criminal databases, revoked or suspended driver’s licenses and other information about the unscrupulous elements in the neighborhood. This is downloaded through a high-speed WiFi hotspot at the police officer’s station. These database files are updated every four hours which makes it possible for the integration of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) cameras which have criminal indices at national, state, and local level for immediate hits on the vehicles. Statistics from FBI indicated that as a majority of stops for felony occur in vehicles, this system pre-selects targets of opportunity for the law enforcement agencies to move-in.
The city of Denver has been a big supporter of using the DDACTS technology and the City Police Chief Robert White has made adopting the new technology for fighting crime a priority since he took office in 2011. This has been of massive help as the population of the city has risen considerably. Police and law enforcement departments across the United States are now implementing a data-driven approach to tackling crime and traffic safety. The new system has provided great help to the investigative agencies as well. As cops drive through their district, the cameras on top of their cars photograph, read and process thousands of number plates. The information is saved for 364 days in the system, following which, it is permanently erased.
Some sections of the society have raised concerns about the privacy infringement by the new system. However, larger cities like Denver, with a big population size are installing fixed cameras at all the key intersections across the city. These cameras will perform the same function as the DDACTS and feed information to other jurisdictions to alert law enforcement departments about stolen or wanted vehicles entering their cities.
Other cities like Los Angeles have been known to be using license plate readers for many years now. However, the new technology with various gadgets like GPS, advanced cameras, and database integration has enhanced the effectiveness. The system also stores the precise location where the license plate was captured. The next phase would be the introduction of facial recognition which is already being implemented in many parts across the U.S. by police and law enforcement departments as they integrate a data-driven approach for tackling crime and traffic safety. The technique and strategies adopted by the agencies to prevent crime and apprehend criminals is undergoing a major overhaul due to the new technology.
By Ankur Sinha
NHTSA-Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS)
PublicEngines-Deploy Officers More Effectively and Efficiently with DDACTS
Forbes-Police Cars Can Now Identify Criminals While On Patrol
Photo Courtesy of Joe Flood’s Flickr Page–Creative Commons License