Viewpoints

Sacramento’s real-time crime center—and why you need one

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By Kevin Ebi, Smart Cities Council
 

Pick a city – any city – and crime is likely at or near the top of the list of citizen concerns. But while most citizens in most cities are worried about crime, Sacramento actually has a crime problem. Rates of murders, rapes and robberies all climbed last year – and by amounts greater than that of any other major city.

Sacramento is trying a number of different things to bring crime down, but what’s notable is that it’s bringing all of those different things together in one system. The police department’s new Real-Time Crime Center is really a model of what a smart city should do on a large scale. Everything from camera footage to gunshot detection information streams into a single system that helps officers anywhere make people safer. The power isn’t any one tactic; it’s all of them working together.


Crime fighting headquarters
When police in Sacramento respond to a major situation, they will have the benefit of potentially hundreds of extra eyes. And gunshot detectors. And stolen vehicle monitors. All working together to provide officers in the field the most comprehensive view possible of the situation.

The city recently took the wraps of its real-time crime center, a project that’s been in the works since early summer. With violent crime on the rise there, it’s part of a major push to use technology to make the streets safer.

The center sounds like an emergency management headquarters — real-time video feeds fill the walls — but Sacramento police eventually plan to be using it around the clock. Right now, three officers use it part-time.


Bringing technology together
Sacramento police have been proactive in pushing new technology out into the field. They have installed gunshot detectors. Police Observation Devices monitor key intersections, watching for stolen vehicles.

But what’s new is that the center brings all of those resources together, combining them with hundreds of cameras, some owned by the police, but many more maintained by the transportation department or others. Center staff watch all the sources, monitor social media and police radios, relating useful information to officers in the field as soon as it comes in.

And it’s not just technology. Sacramento Regional Transit, the agency responsible for buses and light rail, has moved its own monitors into the center.


Improving public safety
The city says it isn’t ready to talk about successes, but there have already been some. And with a violent crime rate growing faster than in other major cities, any progress is welcome news.

It works to improve safety in a couple of ways. The first, says the police department, is showing criminals the city is tough on crime.

“One of the biggest things that we are trying to get out of this is that we are trying to send a message,” said Chief Samuel Somers Jr. “We want to send a message that we are serious about making Sacramento the safest big city in California.”

The second is being in operating the department in a state of continuous improvement. Already, the center operates a bit differently than it did when it first opened. The department has already learned and made tweaks to optimize its performance. More improvements will come as it learns more and as new technology is introduced.

 

Kevin Ebi is editor of the Smart Cities Council’s publications. Check out the Council’s Smart Cities Readiness Guide for free help to build and execute plans to make your city more livable, workable and sustainable.

 

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