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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
September 5, 2014

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What Exactly is a ‘Safe City’?

New York City sunsetRequiring collaboration between the public and private sector and encompassing every security discipline, the safe cities concept is broad and nebulous.

We asked six security experts from across the industry what the concept means to them.

The video surveillance expert: Simon Adcock, CCTV section chairman, BSIA; MD, Atec Security

Cities are dynamic, complex environments and securing their prosperity through protecting population, assets and reputation is a major challenge.

Obvious threats include crime and terrorism but threats like flooding, road safety and pollution also must be considered. Responsibility for city safety is shared between multiple agencies and safe city initiatives are about prevention (through better intelligence sharing) and risk mitigation (through better incident management).

From a CCTV perspective the ability to access and share relevant video feeds, both live and forensically, is a common feature, and we’re seeing agencies accessing video feeds from company systems at a fraction of the cost of installing their own cameras. The technology links disparate systems under a common platform and offers police access and audit trails essential for DPA compliance.

The role of technology in safer cities is fundamentally about enabling effective communications between these agencies and stakeholders.

The consultant: Martin Grigg, founder and director, CHQ Security Services

As a basic definition ‘safe cities’ proactively reduce urban crime such as antisocial behaviour, street robbery and burglaries through a mixture of policing, technology deployment and offender management.

However, I see safe cities of the future deploying a holistic approach to metropolitan security. Cities that collect data (big data) from hospitals, transport systems, sporting events, traffic management systems, emergency services, private and public sector security systems – to name a few – and through data mining techniques, trend analysis and 3D visualisation, can improve services and, more importantly, predict when increased services are required.

The data analytics and crime prevention consultant: Ron Fellows

If something bad or wrong happens and it’s witnessed by a CCTV camera, there may be a human operator watching or there may be a smart video solution watching. If a terrorist organisation plots using social media, there may be a security analyst scanning the traffic or a smart analytics solution monitoring traffic and generating alerts.

A growing number of smart intelligence-gathering solutions are in place around the world. However, what stands in the way of the city becoming safer is the lack of joined-up thinking in the procurement of such ‘toys’ – or does the problem lie in the way such things are funded?

Whatever it is, more evidence of joined-up thinking would make me feel safer.

The threat analyst: Martin Lee, technical lead, threat intelligence, Cisco

It’s all about using computing devices to optimise a city’s operation to better serve the needs of its citizens. It’s about making people’s lives easier and the city more efficient – and more cost-efficient.

There has to be that IT level of sensors, actuators and connectivity, but really all we’re doing is deploying a new tool to help services already in place to become more efficient.

So we don’t need armed police on every corner – not if you’re doing the monitoring and analysis right. Just deploy existing law enforcement resources more efficiently to better fulfil their goals and the needs of the population. It’s not about an Orwellian, all-seeing state; it’s just about making everything that little bit easier, that little bit more efficient, that little bit better.

The association chairman: Michael White, director, Hampton Consultancy Ltd and chairman, International Professional Security Association

Back in 1996 the UN Safer Cities programme was launched in response to requests from African city mayors for help in tackling urban crime and violence.
Over the years this has expanded, moved into cities globally and is now predicated on multi-agency cooperation across both public and private sectors.
One key to continued success is a scheme’s flexibility: to respond to specific needs, within cooperating agencies and to adapt as needs change.
Finally, inter-agency cooperation will have to accommodate funding squeezes as well operational requirements.

The public-sector surveillance expert: Andy Bailey, CCTV and systems coordinator, South Tyneside Council

This means a safe and secure environment that also provides a welcoming atmosphere for visitors. A mix of agencies working together to provide a visible, reassuring presence without being overbearing.

We need regeneration teams working together with community safety partners on new developments and robust policies and procedures to deal with resilience issues. A safe city needs a close partnership so that information is shared effectively to help reduce crime and disorder.

It’s essential that we have an effective guardian in the form of a modern, publicly overt CCTV system that is monitored by trained, proactive and enthusiastic staff with radio links to local shop and pub watches and police radio systems. We also need good news stories to promote the work being done and how safe the area is – because perception is everything.

Free Download: The Video Surveillance Report 2023

Discover the latest developments in the rapidly-evolving video surveillance sector by downloading the 2023 Video Surveillance Report. Over 500 responses to our survey, which come from integrators to consultants and heads of security, inform our analysis of the latest trends including AI, the state of the video surveillance market, uptake of the cloud, and the wider economic and geopolitical events impacting the sector!

Download for FREE to discover top industry insight around the latest innovations in video surveillance systems.


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