How Real-Time Crime Central is enabling technology-driven policing

Law enforcement agencies are rapidly waking up to the effectiveness of technology in new ways to fight crime. Tools like ALPR cameras, gunshot detection equipment, police drones, and remote surveillance cameras are nothing new, but combining them to fight crime is fast becoming the standard for a new model of policing known as technology-driven policing.

Technology-driven policing (TDP) is the process of using technology to actively disrupt or passively investigate crime. TDP is arguably the future of law enforcement, and with it comes the need for a centralized team to manage the technology. While it can be enforced through a dispatch center or on the street with police, maximizing efficiency requires a dedicated unit.A real-time crime center (RTCC) is a natural home for this task, but many agencies find that while it may be easy to set up an RTCC, it is not so easy to do yes to RTCC.

Lessons learned from several very effective crime centers point to successful patterns. Certain technologies, such as fixed ALPR cameras and live-streaming IP cameras, are among the most valuable tools, but these tools are only effective when used with people trained in real-time analysis and given the right tasks. Real-time analysis is the rapid analysis of information relevant to law enforcement needs to have a direct impact on officer safety, citizen safety, or the identification or arrest of criminal suspects. Effective real-time analytics are critical to any law enforcement agency looking to transition to a technology-driven concept of policing.

Performing real-time analysis to improve the safety of officials and citizens is the core mission of the most effective RTCCs.

Performing real-time analysis to improve the safety of officials and citizens is the core mission of the most effective RTCCs. (Dalton Weber)

Understandably, each law enforcement agency may have its own idea of ​​what works depending on the issues in its field, but there are a few things that generally apply. For example, the most successful real-time crime centers are almost entirely proactive in nature. There is little waiting time, and the officer or analyst will offer to help the officer on the street with the problem. With little downtime, supervisors empower their employees to participate creatively in the day-to-day activities of the department.

Real-time crime hubs that are reactive in nature tend to be less successful, much to the dismay of administrators and political leaders. That’s not to say reactive RTCCs don’t have value, but the RTCC’s mission in a technology-driven policing agency is to engage with whatever is going on at the moment. Only by using technology proactively can agencies effectively mitigate crime. It does so by focusing on three core pillars of real-time analytics: security, identification and arrest.


Performing real-time analysis to improve the safety of officials and citizens is the core mission of the most effective RTCCs. Improving security is always a top priority for Live Crime Center. The most basic thing a proactive RTCC can do to improve officer safety is to research and provide information to officers before they arrive to request service.

When a law enforcement officer is dispatched to a service call, they rarely know where they are walking or who will be involved. A proactive RTCC can do many things to improve situational awareness and officer safety. A simple task is to research the individuals listed on the call to determine if they have any outstanding warrants or violent criminal histories.

Providing responders with real-time situational awareness is another task that not only improves safety but also increases potential investigative leads if a remote live camera is located near the call. Some agencies are starting DFR (Drones as First Responders) programs that allow their RTCC or similar teams to launch drones to gain situational awareness.

[RELATED: 11 ways police departments are using drones]

Drones are a great tool; however, they are limited in their ability to assist in passive investigations. In addition to situational awareness, only remotely viewed cameras can provide investigative leads for both active and passive investigations.

It is unreasonable to expect a police officer to perform these tasks while driving to a phone call, and it is equally unreasonable to expect a dispatcher to perform the same function. The only caveat is that SMBs can cross-train dispatchers to assist with these tasks—but only if they are trained in real-time analytics and prioritization of their dispatch responsibilities. The most efficient way to achieve this is through a dedicated RTCC.

2. Identification

Providing real-time analysis to assist in the identification of criminal suspects is another important task of the RTCC. This should not be confused with responsiveness, after-the-fact analysis, or assisting in early investigations. Real-time analysis for identification purposes in RTCC is a function related to proactive service calls or investigations.

Suppose someone robs a convenience store. Traditionally, officers respond and begin gathering evidence, recording witness and victim statements, and collecting video. They complete a report and send it to detectives, sometimes days later. All of these tasks are reactive in nature. When dealing with the same situation from a technology-driven regulatory perspective in active RTCC, the approach looks more like this:

Before the police arrive, the RTCC contacts the victim to gather information about any vehicles that may have been used in the crime. If a vehicle description is available, RTCC will start searching area cameras and ALPR cameras for a match. If a vehicle is found, the RTCC tracks its direction of travel and attempts to track it on camera with the goal of finding it in real time. If found, RTCC personnel direct officers to where they may apprehend the suspect. If it cannot be found, valuable evidence has been obtained that could lead to identification.

This situation is not science fiction, or even realistic; it is common in the most skilled RTCCs, with the right technique.

3. concern

Perhaps the most exciting feature of an efficient RTCC is its active involvement in arresting those involved in criminal offences. Many of these incidents were initiated by RTCC itself and did not rely on service calls or on-site investigations.

It is unrealistic to expect a police agency of any size to have an officer in a known high-crime location 24 hours a day. Irrationality increases with the number of high-crime locations within an agency’s jurisdiction. A more practical approach would be to place a remotely viewed camera at each location and have an RTCC operator monitor the locations.

Effective and proactive RTCCs relentlessly monitor high crime locations and call in uniformed officers when crime is detected. Open-air drug markets where illegal drugs are bought and sold and no-go areas where people may illegally possess weapons are great places to snap a camera. A proactive RTCC, especially when working with a technology-related response team, can be called in to perform surgery on the individual who committed the crime. It would also have a chilling effect on others who might be on the fence about crime.

Crime mitigation is not limited to detecting criminal behavior in real time; however, many violent crimes begin with gatherings of individuals and escalate over time. If RTCC operators notice a gathering of individuals, they can notify officials simply by parking near the crowd. Potentially violent crimes can be mitigated by mere presence and do not necessarily need to be enforced.

[RELATED: Crime surging? Here’s how technology can help]

focus on the basics

These three core pillars of real-time analytics are the foundation of an effective RTCC. Focusing on security, identification and arrests through technology-driven policing concepts is a scalable approach that agencies of any size can adopt. This can be executed as effectively in a 5 officer agency as it is in a 5,000 officer agency – the important thing to remember is to focus on the basics. The size and appearance of an RTCC will never matter as much as its effectiveness, and understanding these concepts can ease the transition to technology-driven policing.

Hear the author discuss this topic on the POLICING MATTERS PODCAST:

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