Using ICT solutions to detect and fight crime (1)… Introduction and Cases of Crime Control using ICT

The Ghana Police Service has been overwhelmed by the upsurge of armed robbery cases in different parts of the country. The police themselves have been attacked on a few occasions, especially in recent times – and in all those cases, they were found wanting.

The recent attack on the police happened when a group of armed men attacked the Kwabenya police station and freed inmates locked up in cells. The police had to rely on the public to bring some of the perpetrators to book. One of the lessons learnt from the Kwabenya attack was the need for video cameras at police stations. The Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana, who doubles as chairman of the Police Council,  Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia on the 11th of February 2018 announced that government was going to install Closed-Circuit Televisions (CCTV) cameras in all police stations spread across all 216 districts in Ghana.

On the 24th of February 2018, armed robbers stormed the premises of Royal Motors. They robbed the firm, and when leaving took with them the CCTV Digital Video Recorder (DVR) that was being used by Royal Motors. This is the first time armed robbers have robbed a firm in Ghana and made away with a CCTV DVR.  This shows that the robbers are becoming more sophisticated and tech savvy. It then means that installing CCTVs on premises alone won’t be enough to curb robbery.

After this and other reported robberies, government came out (on 1st March, 2018) with some short- to medium-term measures which include deploying a joint Military and Police patrol team; raising GH¢800m to purchase Helicopter(s), body-amour and other equipment for the police; and a directive for all banks to install CCTV cameras on their premises.

Later in that day, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mr. David Asante Apeatu announced a major shake-up in the police hierarchy as a response to the recent armed robbery attacks. This was expected, but as to whether it is the solution we live to see.

In learning from recent best practices, the Kenyan National Police Service Commission now has a high-speed private broadband network at its disposal – reliant in part on Huawei’s proprietary wireless eLTE solution. The new infrastructure links its command centres with over 1,500 high-definition cameras in downtown Nairobi, more than 200 cameras at city checkpoints, and any number of wireless devices in the hands of officers in the field.

Authorities have panoramic video surveillance of Nairobi’s urban centre, and a highly-agile command and dispatch setup running on satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) and software-based GIS – the geographic information system designed to store and manipulate GPS data. Additionally, an intelligent video analysis platform has been established to manage video resources and meet a variety of service needs, including real-time surveillance, video-browsing, data-sharing and evidence collection.

The new system has enhanced police collaboration, coordination, decision-making and response times. The newly-outdoored Ghana Post GPS can be developed properly to help in providing precise locations of hot-spots and locations of incidents.

With smart devices allied to a private or leased broadband network, police officers from the command centre can pick up live-feed of a shop theft  – from CCTV, say – before they even arrive at the scene; or of criminals in flight from cameras fixed to patrol cars, videos from cameras installed on communication towers close by; CCTV cameras on shop owners’ premises; or drones in the vicinity.

Intelligent camera’s installed along streets can monitor the speed limits of cars and report with Panic-alarms when it recognises a vehicle moving above the speed limit to the command centre. It is a known fact that armed robbers – both on motorbikes and in cars – drive at top speed after engaging in a robbery act.

A smart and intelligent camera can pick up such motorbikes and cars and report to the control centre if such a movement is recorded. Once an officer picks up such a panic signal, the closest police patrol team can be informed to follow the overspeeding vehicle and intercept it. Also, the control centre can continue monitoring the car or motorbike to wherever it stops.

Another best practice is what the city of Detroit implemented in reducing crime by 50 percent. The city of Detroit in January 2016 started what is known as the ‘project green light’. This project was done as a public-private partnership between the Police Department and shop/business owners in the city. The project combines real-time crime-fighting and community policing to improve neighborhood safety and promote the growth of local businesses.

At its core, Project Green Light strengthens the city’s efforts to prevent, identify, and solve crime. Business owners were tasked to implement high-definition video camera systems for both indoors and outdoors. The outdoor systems were also complemented with additional lighting to sufficiently cover all areas of the property. Secondly, the business owners gave real-time access to their cameras at all times to the police department.  This means that the Police department can access the video from their central monitoring facility.

Lastly, they installed enhanced exterior lighting systems and a green flashing-light; thus identifying their participation in the programme. The best part of this collaboration was usage of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform for storage of all videos. This eliminated the cost in getting large storage devices and maintenance of the system.

Part 2 of this article will give more insights into ICT smart solutions for crime detection.

The writer is a  Telecommunications Consultant (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

For comments, contact author shhagan@gmail.com  Mobile: +4740245666