The security week that was: 11/11/11 (12 Lessons in Municipal Surveillance)

We wrapped up the Secured Cities conference this afternoon in Baltimore and it left all of us enthused, excited and educated. Some of my personal highlights included watching actual camera footage as Baltimore police officers stopped felonies, to learning how cities are creatively finding funding for these projects (yes, even in this economy), to security for special events on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and hearing how agencies broke down silos and moved from suspicion and jealousy to partnership and cooperation. To all of the agencies and technology firms that participated, thank you again, and we’ll see you in Chicago, April 19-20, 2012.

There was so much to learn at this conference, too much to write for this Friday afternoon column, but I do want to share my top 12 lessons from the conference:

  1. Partner with other agencies. Baltimore’s Grand Prix and all of the special events on the National Mall in Washington are indicators of this. The old days of “go it alone” are crumbling, and the paradigm is changing.
  2. Measure, measure, measure. In today’s economy, you need metrics on your system. Baltimore is approaching 1,100 camera-initiated arrests in 11 months in 2011. That is simply amazing.
  3. Monitor the video. Monitoring is expensive, no doubt, but research from the Urban Institute and testimony from our speakers is clear: Your urban video systems need live monitoring to be valuable.
  4. Dispatch on camera. One reason why Baltimore is so successful is that officers are dispatched based on camera monitoring. Technology exists now to integrate video surveillance and dispatch centers (the subject of one our sessions).
  5. Train your officers on the system. Police are sometimes leery of new technologies, and there’s an attitude of “I’m better than cameras,” which is true. But if you train and learn how you can do even more with camera access, you’re stronger. Training dispels fear: Fear of being replaced, and fear of not knowing how to use the technology.
  6. Earn C-level buy-in. Our keynote speaker for the conference, City of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, as well as Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III, are both vocal advocates of leveraging technology to aid public safety, as is Governor O'Malley who founded the city’s camera project. You need that kind of support.
  7. Be creative on funding. From forming private, non-profit corporations, to snagging asset forfeiture funds, to finding unused grant dollars, you can’t expect the money to come to you. You will have to hunt it.
  8. Hunt the hunters. One of the seminars was how to think like a terrorist. We looked at how a specialist "red team" tested airline security at Los Angeles International Airport. Anticipate the unexpected and think like the terrorists to find them.
  9. Involve the public. We heard from the Maryland Transit Administration on how they implemented the “See something, say something” program to earn the public’s buy-in. Also key is involving the public in deployment of camera systems in your city’s streets.
  10. Coordinate transit and city police. One camera system watches our streets. One watches our "moving streets." Suspects move fluidly between streets, to transit, and back to streets, and we have to be capable of handling that movement.
  11. Define your policy. Part of the reason for a strong policy is to CYA on privacy, other reasons are so your video doesn’t appear on YouTube, but the main reason is so that to develop internal process habits that are recognized in court.
  12. Partner. Yep, this was lesson No. 1, and it’s worth repeating. Partner with your fellow agencies. Partner with your vendors and integrators. Partner with secondary public safety agencies, such as the Red Cross and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Partner with IT. One of our speakers even partnered with a local TV station to do video backhauling. The possibilities are endless.

We look forward to seeing you in Chicago.

--Geoff Kohl, conference director, Secured Cities, and editor-in-chief/associate publisher,