Public safety and the city of the future

Mar 27 2015 by Ed Nevins Print This Article

What separates a City of the Future from other cities is that it goes beyond just providing basic police, fire, and emergency medical services. It incorporates advanced technology, predictive analytics, regionalization, and other emerging public safety trends into a progressive program that serves the local community, while possessing the capability to be extended into neighboring municipalities, as appropriate.

Of course, this broad vision for a safer tomorrow will require the successful completion of a series of initiatives in order to be fully realized. The following are a few important guidelines that are intended to help city leaders initiate their public safety transformation efforts.

Perform operational assessment

The first step in transforming public safety, is to understand operations as they exist today by performing an operational assessment. This helps to create a baseline for how your city operates today and identify which areas can benefit from strategic initiatives, and it involves looking at the different services offered, citizen needs, departments and personnel, costs of operations, and regulatory constraints.

Creating this baseline helps your city become more knowledgeable of its strengths and weaknesses, which in turn puts it in position to identify opportunities and threats moving facing these services moving forward.

Perform technology assessment

Create a baseline of the technology supporting all public safety services, taking a look at the systems backing day-to-day operations and city-wide initiatives as well as the data that is captured and used.

Assuming you have an adequate foundation of systems supporting public safety, you’ll also want to ensure you have tools that enable innovation. Explore things like electronic parking meters, smart stop lights, and safer police equipment. Frequently, the most immediate improvements come from simple upgrades in technology.

Understand current capacity

Over time, patterns are established for police, fire, and emergency medical service demand, and by now it can be generally understood how well your city meets this demand. Look for areas where excess capacity might be leveraged and shared with surrounding communities through partnerships or contracting arrangements. For areas that cannot as easily be shared, look to repurpose resources for other city uses to improve other types of public safety services.

Leverage modern public safety science

Built on newer technologies and advanced data collection vehicles, modern public safety science takes advantage of predictive analytics to streamline safety services. By collecting larger amounts of data, information can be created that spots trends to help predict needs for certain services. It is reasonable to assume that efficiencies can be gained by placing fire fighters closer to expected incidents, police officers closer to potential crimes, and so on. Only by leveraging all the data that could be available to cities, can a more modern approach to providing public safety be achieved.

Implement preventive programs

Taking predictive analytics one step further, your city should focus on creating programs that prevent negative safety incidents. Encourage education of citizenry to equip them with the tools and techniques to avoid disasters such as in-home fires. Provide them with advice on how to spot potential crimes before they happen by creating more open communications. It is critical to incorporate citizens into the delivery of safety because the more they feel involved, the more likely they are to act in the best interest of “their” city.

Explore regional partnerships

Some services and processes are likely to benefit from economies of scale. Public safety dollars should be maximized for providing just that: public safety. Meanwhile, they should not be overly-allocated toward overhead operations like information technology and human resources.

If these more overhead-related costs can be spread across larger populations, through regionalization initiatives, the same or better overhead can be provided to a larger number of cities for lower total cost, allowing for more budget allocation toward actually providing police, fire, and emergency services.

Create regional safety hub

If your city has successfully engaged in each of the preceding actions it may be able to embark on the creation of a “regional safety hub.” Leveraging the ideas above along with inter-local relationships, your city could invest in creating a public safety infrastructure that supports a large number of surrounding municipalities. Services could be rendered to other municipalities for annual fees, and the costs of all services can be lowered by scaling up across all partners. The fees provide increased revenue for your city, while the increase in services could benefit all those involved.

In closing

For your city to transform its public safety services, a number of approaches must be considered and integrated into a comprehensive program. This progressive public safety program must be designed to both improve public safety at the local level and have the extendibility required to enable the sharing of these services with other communities. Indeed, by heeding the advice offered here, it is my hope that your city will one day optimize its public safety services and implemented the programs necessary to improve the overall quality of life for you and me.


About The Author

Ed Nevins
Ed Nevins

Ed Nevins, PMP is a senior consultant at BlumShapiro Consulting. He focuses on management and systems consulting including strategic analysis, business review, financial modeling, process analysis, and software selection. He has worked on projects for public, private, and nonprofit companies in the manufacturing, distribution, government and professional service industries.