The Public Safety & Social Media Vacuum

By Alex Sorin, Safe City Solutions

The blogging world and public safety publications abound are writing non-stop about the benefits of social media monitoring and public safety.  Whether social media monitoring is used for emergency response or to track the flu epidemic across the US, its benefits cannot be disputed.

However public safety and law enforcement communities are still using social media analytics in a vacuum and its true benefits have yet to be achieved.  The real advantage is to use social media monitoring bolstered by other tools such as Incident Management Systems (PSIM), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Intelligence Analysis software that can recognize and illustrate the patterns that all of this information combined creates.

The technology is already in our hands, it just takes a bit of imagination to fully utilize its true capabilities.  In order to demonstrate this point, I have created an imaginary scenario relevant for the law enforcement community that captures the benefits of combining social media monitoring with a cocktail of security technologies.

Scenario: Tracking & Preventing Gang Crime

A rising gang syndicate is responsible for an increasing spiral of violence, and the local police force lacks the means to track the gang’s social media communications.  In order to tackle this problem the police decides to utilize an innovative social media monitoring platform that can collect, log, and filter relevant intelligence gathered on gang members from Twitter and Facebook.  This data can then be transformed into actionable intelligence when uploaded into an Incident Management System or PSIM that sits at the center of it all, fusing this data together and producing unprecedented results.  The Police can also upload all collected data into an intelligence analysis software platform utilized for post event analysis, pattern recognition, and response planning for future gang activity. Here is a list of the potential ways the police force can utilize social media monitoring, sitting on top of an Incident Management System, to combat gang violence and other crime:

Computer Aided Dispatch technology in the event that an Officer is deployed to an incident where the same person has been reported.  Matching this social media data to the police force’s own criminal database can be used to transmit critical information to an Officer responding to an incident.

There is, however, a critical balance between public safety needs and the public’s legitimate concerns about privacy. Social media monitoring of this sort should be focused and used in instances directly linked to criminal activity or public safety threats.  At the same time, the latest trends in mass shootings and other seemingly spontaneous mass casualty incidents must push law enforcement to use tools and technologies that give them faster and broader situational awareness to respond more quickly and potentially stop an incident before it becomes a mass casualty event. Criminal entities are increasingly using social media to increase their advantage to perpetrate crimes.  Law enforcement should be able to use the same technologies to their advantage by combining social media analytics with other tools that they already use on a daily basis to provide effective and rapid capabilities to protect the general public.