In a world where physical assaults and violent crimes pervade, few would disagree that law enforcement agencies and officers on the ground need every bit of assistance they can get to combat potential threats and maximize public safety in their daily operations. The good news is that wireless technology is offering a much-needed helping hand.
Consider these facts: in 2017, 60,211 law enforcement officers in the US were assaulted while performing their duties; roughly one third of those officers assaulted on the job sustained injuries; an estimated 382.9 violent crimes occurred per 100,000 inhabitants; and aggravated assaults accounted for 65 percent of the almost 1.25 million total violent crimes nationwide reported to law enforcement (FBI annual Uniform Crime Report: Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2017).
It’s little wonder the organizations charged with protecting our society are increasingly turning to technology solutions for support in the line of duty. And behind the scenes when responding to alerts, tracking and recording criminal activity, collecting important evidence, and accounting for the actions of officers during investigations, pursuits, apprehensions, and arrests.
How does wireless connectivity play its part? In many different ways across varied self-defense and law enforcement platforms.
Multifaceted safety networks
The advanced solutions available to law enforcement agencies include entire wireless networks comprising people, self-protection equipment, and connected incident apps and Cloud based alarm platforms. The key advantage of such holistic networks is their ability to support and streamline every aspect of the law enforcement process from information gathering and quicker responses through to live monitoring and post-incident analysis.
For example, Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs) in Chicago, IL, combine surveillance camera footage and sensor-based gunshot detection with analytics on previous crime patterns in the area, allowing local officers to make informed predictions about the likely occurrences and locations of violent crime. An SDSC instalation was deployed in the Chicago district of Englewood for the first time during 2017, with shootings subsequently falling by 67 percent compared to the previous year (2019 U.S. Police Foundation report).
Meanwhile in the Central West End District of St. Louis, MO, citizens report suspicious activity and request police assistance through a smartphone app, with local officers then rapidly formulating an action plan using data based intelligence gathered by alarms, IoT sensors, cameras, and communication systems, and presented on a single ‘situational awareness’ dashboard via Coolfire Solutions’ Ronin Platform.
Incorporated into these safety networks are conventional self-protection devices that have been upgraded to fully connected "smart weapons" using wireless technology. Take Axon’s TASER 7 “conducted energy” weapon, a Bluetooth LE enabled Axon TASER Smart Weapon
that’s not only designed to lower the risk of permanent injury to both target and officer, but also wirelessly report its status, immediately activate the user’s body worn video cameras, and collect further analytics about its use during an incident. Complementing the device’s core protection-of-life benefits, this type of technology has an important role to play in supplying usable information and evidence for law enforcement agencies, and, later, courtrooms.
Sometimes, a gun is fired during a serious incident. Fortunately, technology can still be a major asset to police officers in these scenarios. In 2018, Tempe, AZ-based DataSoft Corporation launched the Automatic Injury Detection (AID) wearable gunshot detection system for "man-down" vests
featuring a built-in wireless sensor. When the AID panel detects an impact to the wearer’s front or back, the vest automatically connects via Bluetooth LE to a paired device, typically the user’s smartphone, which in turn sends an emergency alert directly to a dispatcher’s console as well as to nominated first responders via SMS.
Another major advantage of Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity for personal protection and law enforcement technologies is the efficiency and affordability of low power consumption over a short range, ensuring devices like smart tasers can last for extended periods of time in the field before needing to be recharged or replaced.
Even smarter law enforcement
Connected devices including smart weapons, body worn video cameras, and wearable gunshot detection systems operating within multifaceted safety networks comprising wireless communication platforms — this is the welcome new reality for law enforcement agencies around the world.
Much has changed in recent years, but the public safety and law enforcement landscape continues to shift as new wireless technologies such as cellular IoT emerge and thrive. Looking ahead, responding quickly, safely, and effectively to crime will become easier in a smart city running smoothly on its cellular IoT foundations. Will smart cities one day employ wirelessly connected street lights integrating gunshot detection equipment and sensors to adjust their brightness in a specific area where a crime has just taken place? Will facial recognition and license plate scanning become faster and more accurate for law enforcement agencies with direct access to the whole city’s surveillance camera video footage? It’s almost certainly a case of when, not if, such innovations become the global law enforcement sector’s new best friend.