India's Public Transport Security Wake Up Call

By Alex Sorin, Safe City Solutoins

The news of the violent gang rape of a young Indian woman on a public bus and her subsequent death has shocked the world and led to protests and unrest.  As a growing economic power and the largest democracy in the world, India must address some very core issues within its society in order to curtail future horrors such as this.   While increased security is by no means the sole solution to this problem, because it is obviously rooted in years of sexual repression and a disregard of women's rights, certain security measures can help alert law enforcement of similar incidents and assist to catch the perpetrators.   

As a result of the incident the Indian Deputy Chief Minister and the Transport Minister announced that as many as 6,000 public transport buses will be equipped with CCTVs and GPS to help prevent future attacks against women riding public transport.  By installing surveillance cameras and vehicle trackers Indian law enforcement can better prepare itself to respond to future incidents and effectively identify those involved.  

However, these systems must feed into some sort of Incident Management System or PSIM to allow law enforcement to quickly identify and react to these and other incidents on public transportation.   This will avert confusion, the overlap of responsibilities, and a delayed response.  To do otherwise will only result in creating a perception of security with little to show for the investment in technology.  Additionally, it has not been announced whether or not these public transportation surveillance systems will be equipped with an audio recording or facial recognition capability.  These tools can help identify both the perpetrators and the victims.

Major U.S. cities such as Washington, DC, New York and Atlanta have adopted Information Driven Policing strategies that are built upon such Incident Management Systems or PSIMs.  While the security and social dynamics of India and the U.S. are not the same, our growing adoption of policing strategies reinforced by an Incident Management System and innovative technologies have proven to be an effective and game changing tool to fight crime and terrorism.  Just as the attacks of September 11th and the London and Madrid public transport bombings forced the western world to acknowledge and adapt to new security realities, this most recent tragedy in India, as well as past terrorist attacks in that country, are proving to have the same effect.

As stated earlier, security measures alone will not eradicate violent crimes such as the one that occurred in New Delhi, however they can prevent future atrocities and provide law enforcement a proven tool to quickly respond to and handle such incidents.  There are multiple rights groups who condemn the installation of surveillance equipment on public transportation, claiming it is a violation of privacy, but India suffers from social issues such as this as well as terrorist threats as proven by the attacks in Mumbai and elsewhere.  

Until India is prepared to answer for its blatant disregard for women's rights and its lack of a plan to stop nationwide sexual assaults, these security measures are a step in the right direction.