Many organizations have adopted technology to interact with their customers via smart phones, and through social media, on a daily basis. It’s common for many commercial organizations to routinely communicate with their customers via texts, blogs, mobile applications, Twitter, Facebook and more.

It makes sense to use the preferred communication methods of the people you want to interact with. So why aren't more governmental organizations doing the same? Why aren’t they using social media, mobile devices and smart phones to get their message across? Obviously, you can't offer sales or special deals, but you can provide citizens with instructions during a natural disaster, updates on crime, or alerts about dangerous situations. And the feedback government agencies can receive when the lines of communication are more open can be invaluable in helping them to improve and act on issues quickly.

With nearly 130 million smart phones in America, and two-thirds of all adults participating in some form of social media, mobile devices and social media have become the preferred forms of communication for a growing number of people. This offers government agencies an important opportunity to engage with citizens more directly.

Consider the important role these media played during the horrifying bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon. After the explosions, thousands of cell phone images and videos poured into police departments and other government agencies, eventually leading to the identification of the perpetrators. However, the one thing that was lacking was a single point of contact through which every lead could be funneled to the right authorities.

In law enforcement, thanks to the near-universal presence of smart phones, key evidence can be gathered by average citizens and shared with the appropriate authorities. This means police departments now have expanded the eyes and ears on the streets exponentially to help them solve, and prevent crime.

Successful use of technology goes well beyond citizens taking proactive steps in crime prevention. We must look at these tools as opportunities to keep citizens informed. Take the Boston Marathon bombings again as an example. Throughout the ordeal, the Boston Police Department used social media to accurately update the community. That proved significant: several high-profile traditional media outlets reported incorrect and misleading information.

Embracing these technologies offers numerous benefits. Some of the benefits, such as preventing and solving crimes, can be quantified financially and in economic terms. But more importantly, the technologies help create stronger, mutually beneficial relationships between citizens and law enforcement agencies.
That's a win-win for everyone.

William Kilmer is CEO of PublicEngines. The Draper, Utah-based firm aims to help prevent, reduce, and solve crime. The company offers cloud-based products that facilitate crime analysis, supply actionable intelligence and increase public engagement. CrimeReports, CommandCentral and TipSoft are three of the firm’s products. PublicEngines services more than 2,000 customers worldwide.

This video shows how CommandCentral performs as a law enforcement analytics engine. The system integrates with any roadway management system or CAD setup,  and it pulls data into a customizable dashboard.


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