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Connect with Your Citizens Anywhere They Want - CityConnect: New Mobile App for Law Enforcement

Timely Crime Data that is Easy to Interpret Leads to Better Law Enforcement Decisions

Organizations of all types, especially law enforcement agencies, are being buried in Big Data. As defined by Wikipedia, the term Big Data  represents data so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process.

The same problem can also referred to as Information Overload, and aside from the technical challenges to Big Data, too much information can be difficult to access, store, share, and be useful. In today’s more electronic world, we aren’t in jeopardy of being buried in paper – rather the biggest threat of all is that the data goes unused.

Useful information leads to better knowledge, and thus better decision-making.  A typical approach to managing data and information can be:

  1. Collect raw data
  2. Sort into useful information
  3. Analyze information
  4. Share findings
  5. Information is turned into useful knowledge

The Information Sharing Environment (ISE) provides vital information about terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and homeland security to analysts, operators, and investigators in the U.S. government. From ISE’s Website:

A fundamental component of effective enterprise-wide information sharing, for example, is the use of information systems that regularly capture relevant data and make it broadly available to authorized users in a timely and secure manner.

While focused on activities mostly related to terrorism, ISE acknowledges its ideas of data sharing are extremely effective in local law enforcement as well.

In law enforcement, timely and accurate information is vital; as untimely or inaccurate information simply causes problems. PublicEngines audits show that up to 25% of all law enforcement data housed in RMS or CAD systems in the average agency is not accurate – often mislabeled or improperly mapped. This can lead to a poor allocation of resources and confusion.

However, some agencies struggle with sharing relevant and timely information at all. Time spent reporting, analyzing, and distributing information can be tedious, and time-consuming. And with up to 59% of agencies stating there is a lack of staff for crime analysis, it’s no surprise the critical information is often not shared.

The lessons are clear – sharing data that is relevant, timely, and easy to interpret, is an effective way to become more efficient in law enforcement.

PublicEngines recently announced it has added Email Reports to its widely popular CommandCentral Analytics solution. You can read the announcement here: PublicEngines Launches Email Reports for CommandCentral

Creating more tools that allow for easier sharing of critical information is a step in the right direction of tackling this challenge of too much information for law enforcement. This is especially true when the information shared is easy-to-read and interpret. The more people that have access to timely and valuable information, the better law enforcement decisions will be made.

So, how is timely and relevant information shared at your agency? Do you have an internal process, meeting, or technology solution that works particularly well for you? Let us know in the comments section.

Law Enforcement to Community Communication – dialogue, not monologue

For many law enforcement agencies, when asked if they have a social media program, their answer will be something like, “yes, we have a Facebook page, and Twitter account.” A good start, but as a standalone, this doesn’t exactly define a program.

Many agencies struggle to gain traction once they launch an agency Facebook page. Take for example, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office that was recently featured in the PublicEngines Definitive Guide to Social Media Engagement for Law Enforcement Agencies 2013. The agency launched its Facebook page, but after three years, only had about 200 Likes, and almost no engagement or interaction with the community. Almost by accident, the Agency went from 200 Likes to several hundreds when hurricane Sandy hit as people in the community were searching for credible sources about the storm and public safety issues.

We can learn from the spike in Likes and engagement Niagara experienced, and it can be done without the help of a hurricane!

The Guide to Social Media Engagement list six ideas for growing your audience and engaging with them:

  1. download The Definitive Guide to Social Media Engagement for Law Enforcement AgenciesHold an Launch Event. Many agencies have successfully hosted a social media launch event (Facebook) by tying into an existing community events. Another example was when the Virginia State Police Department launched its Facebook page on the anniversary of a community-known unsolved homicide.
  2. Obtain Publicity. Most agencies have good working relationship with local media. By issuing a news announcement & having news stories about the social media initiative, agencies can gain awareness, likes/followers, and begin the engagement process.
  3. Promote Social Media Profiles on Agency Website. In addition to making people aware the profiles exist, agencies can also ask questions on the website, and ask the community to provide comments on its social sites.
  4. Use Email to Promote Social Sites & Engage. From including links to social sites in email signatures, to direct outreach emails asking for Likes, or community-related questions, email can be a great way to communicate.
  5. Maintaining Engagement. By providing consistent and predicable information that is useful, actionable, compelling, and sharable with others, fans and followers will begin to anticipate and look forward to these posts. Engagement is sure to follow.
  6. Use CityConnect. All citizens to access all of the agencies social media and web CityConnectaccounts to citizens through their smart phones to make connecting and engagement easy, and always available. CityConnect is an agency-branded mobile app that does just that. From allowing people to deliver crime tips, to accessing CrimeReports, and even for emergency updates, there is no better way to connect with people today than through their smart phone.

The full Guide contains more details, and useful case examples. You can download it here.

Mapping Technology Delivers Powerful Information, Leads to Smarter Decisions

David Weisburd and Tom McEwen opened their groundbreaking 1997 paper, Mapping and Crime Prevention, with an interesting bit of trivia. The first known case of mapping occurred in London during a cholera outbreak in 1854. Dr. John Snow plotted the deaths on a map of the city and compared them to the locations of water pumps throughout the afflicted neighborhood. Through investigation, Dr. Snow was able to pinpoint the exact source of the cholera, and end the outbreak.

Original map made by John Snow in 1854. Cholera cases are highlighted in black.

 

Today mapping has evolved into a high-tech information motherlode. Applications on smart phones can find you the nearest Starbucks in a matter of seconds.  But for all the convenience these consumer-oriented maps offer, none is more important than those mapping crimes.

As a parent, the safety of my kids is my number one priority in making more decisions than I can count. It influences which houses I’ve bought, which schools they attend, sometimes even which restaurants we frequent or events we visit. I want to know my family will be safe.

Take for example, when we were looking at buying a new house.  After touring a home, looking in closets, measuring the space in bedrooms, and driving around the neighborhood, we’d always pull up the local crime mapping site when we got back to our place.

Some houses were dropped from our list within a few minutes after seeing the crimes report. Seeing a series of thefts within a few blocks of the house was a deal breaker for us.

But even more important to us was locating sex offenders in the area. One house we liked in a seemingly quiet neighborhood fell off our list immediately after we saw that a registered sex offender lived down the street.

Please don’t misunderstand, we believe in second chances for everyone after a person has paid his or her debt to society. But for us the risk of our children’s safety – even theoretically – far outweighed the house’s many attributes.

Having access to the knowledge of what crimes have occurred in near real-time is an incredible tool for everyone. And the more crimes that are mapped every year the more efficacious crime mapping becomes as a tool for overall community safety.

The engagement with local police departments mapping offers is an important added benefit. I’ve always been a firm believer that communities are safest when police and citizens work together.  Mapping provides transparency about the crimes in my area. It offers members of the community the opportunity to proactively help in solving and reducing crimes by offering police tips and helping citizens make informed decisions.

Most importantly, mapping gives me an incredibly valuable benefit: the knowledge to empower myself. It helps me make educated decisions to protect my family.

Right now, CrimeReports has 80-million crimes mapped. That’s a staggering number. It is also an empowering number. The more we know, the more we can react and help to bring those numbers down. It will be great day when we start seeing fewer and fewer crimes mapped, because it will mean our society is measurably safer. I think Dr. Snow would be very proud.

Happy New Year – A Letter From the CEO

Looking Back on The Year That Was

This past year has seen a lot of change for PublicEngines and our products. CrimeReports, CommandCentral, and TipSoft all went through new product updates that made them better than ever. One deeply rewarding milestone for us was being recognized and ranked #297 on the Inc 500/5000 by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in the US.  This is an honor in which we deeply appreciate and recognize our customer’s and partner’s support for helping us get there.  To be mentioned within the list means that many more communities are safer now than even just the year before. And we’re working hard to continue that trend for 2013.

Around mid-year we launched a new Website - www.publicengines.com - full of information about our products, recent news articles, and testimonials that highlight how other customers are lowering crime in their jurisdictions. I invite you to come back often to sign up for our bi-monthly thought-leadership webinar series, read the blog, or watch a training video.

And finally, while we launched new and improved versions of each product, we also announced CityConnect, a customizable mobile application designed to help law enforcement agencies to better connect with the public. CityConnect was recently recognized by Law Officer Magazine in its annual Best of the Best New Products for 2012. We’re excited about giving citizens a single-source app where they can find any and all information made available from their local law enforcement agency – including  social media feeds, the agency website, blog, crime map, and tipping program.

Building Momentum That Lasts

Turning to 2013, we continue to focus on providing law enforcement agencies great products to help them better fulfill their mission of preventing, reducing, and solving crime.  A survey conducted in October indicated that the market is poised for new and improved analytics, reporting mechanisms, and greater administrative control within CommandCentral.  I’m pleased to inform you that we’ll deliver you these and many more new features in 2013. Our goal is to help crime analysts perform their jobs in a quicker and more efficient manner, as well as empower their officers with information that leads to better tactical planning; resulting in lower crime rates.

Our focus with CrimeReports is to build features that help citizens become more active in sharing information with their local law enforcement agency and their friends about crime in their area. It’s rooted in the belief that a more informed public is a safer public. Stay tuned to for product updates that make the site easier to navigate and more intuitive to use.

Of course, one of the biggest trends facing us all is the increasing use of smart phones.  They are seemingly in the hands of everyone.  That was the reason why we announced CityConnect as a mobile application last fall. So far, we’ve received tremendous interest in the product and will continue to invest further in mobile solutions that help law enforcement agencies take advantage of these increasingly important devices.

Finally, you will also see improvements to TipSoft – our anonymous tipping service – including direct integration to CityConnect and other capabilities to better receive and process anonymous information from the public. You’ll also see TipSoft make a big splash in the education environment as more and more school administrators adopt the platform as the premier anti-bullying solution.

Your Success Is What Drives Us

At PublicEngines, we measure our success based on our customers success. That’s why  we want to help law enforcement agencies and local governments be more productive, better engaged with their community, and able to do more even though they may have less budget and/or personnel than in years prior.  We strive to provide great products and exceptional client services. But we also know that there is always room for improvement.  I invite you to let us know what we can do to make you more successful. Whether you’re a customer with a feature suggestion or just curious about seeing our products in action, I encourage you to reach out to my team directly by calling 1-888-888 CRIME.

Cheers to Making 2013 a Safer World For Us All.

William Kilmer
Chief Executive Officer
PublicEngines

PublicEngines Named to Inc. 500 List of Fastest-Growing Private U.S. Companies.

Rapid Growth Attributed to Innovative Law Enforcement Technology  

We are really excited to announce that PublicEngines has been recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. with reported growth of more than 1,247 percent! We’re blown away by the revolution that has taken place within the 5 years since the launch CrimeReports.com. In all, more than 2,500 law enforcement agencies, school districts, and nonprofit organizations worldwide have adopted at least one of our platforms. Astonishing.

The Inc. 500 list ranked PublicEngines as the fourth fastest growing company in the security category and 297th fastest growing private company in the country.

We’d like to congratulate all of our customers. You believed in us to deliver what you needed even when we were a whole lot smaller and totally unproven. In complete honesty, you deserve more recognition then I’m sure you get for your desire to be more open and communicative with the people you serve and willingness to adopt new technologies that help accomplish those goals. You took a big risk. Thank You.

William Kilmer, CEO of PublicEngines, notes  “Moving forward, law enforcement agencies can expect PublicEngines to deliver a robust set of solutions with new capabilities that will continue making their jobs easier and their communities safer.”

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First Time Visiting? Here’s a brief introduction to what we do -

PublicEngines’ products include CrimeReports.com, the industry’s most popular online crime mapping and engagement solution as well as the free CrimeReports mobile app for iPhones, used by law enforcement agencies to publish crime data and increase public information flow and interaction; CommandCentral, the leading cloud-based crime intelligence and data visualization tool, providing law enforcement agencies with insightful analytics used to solve and prevent crime; And TipSoft, the industry’s most widely-adopted tip information and workflow management platform developed for gathering anonymous tips from the public and disseminating alerts.