According to UNICEF, 70 percent of people around the world will live in cities by the year 2050. This trend toward urbanization will necessitate new operating models and pose challenges in terms of how to protect residents. Public safety, of course, is an important aspect of contemporary urban life. In a world that is chaotic, dangerous, and volatile, it is hard for there to be economic prosperity and social cohesion without some degree of safety.
As Darrell West and Dan Bernstein argue in this paper, digital technology represents a novel way to improve public safety, promote stronger ties between law enforcement and the community, integrate solutions such as video, data, and analytics into effective solutions, and give security officials stronger tools for outreach and coordination. Many police departments around the world are incorporating social media, mobile technology, and digital tools in their operations. They are setting up internet platforms, leveraging the wisdom of the crowd, and expanding their community policing initiatives.
In “Benefits and best practices of safe city innovation,” West and Bernstein examine the ways that digital technology, mobile networks, and integrated solutions help officials in 17 cities manage public safety and law enforcement. The locales include cities in the United States, U.K., Thailand, Nigeria, Colombia, and more.
The authors demonstrate that there is considerable variation from city-to-city in implementation progress and adoption of best practices. Singapore, Copenhagen, and London top the list of public safety innovators, while Abuja, Nigeria, Cairo, Kuwait City, and Astana, Kazakhstan, lag behind the top performers. The former are places that have a clear vision, significant financial resources, and strong infrastructure; generate positive safety outcomes; utilize data analytics; and engage the community to improve ties with the general public, while the latter have not implemented many best practices and have resource limitations that so far have precluded significant progress.
Clearly, implementation of public safety solutions represents a major challenge in many different places. Cities face barriers such as poor funding, infrastructure difficulties, public resistance, a lack of technical expertise, and privacy and security concerns—but it is crucial for leaders to overcome these obstacles.
Fortunately, as illustrated in this paper, there are many opportunities for cities to build their economies and promote social inclusion through public safety innovation. West and Bernstein identify a lengthy list of recommendations that will enable cities to take advantage of digital technology to the benefit of their citizenry.