Ray Kelly: Techie
March 28th, 2008
A windowless room with a two-story video wall and a vast digital database is the nerve center of the Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center. With the center, police have access to a warehouse of data at their fingertips, providing up-to-date information with ease. The program, according to Government Technology magazine, sets the standard for the use of technology in government. As such, they have placed Police Commissioner Ray Kelly on their annual top 25 list of Doers, Dreamers and Drivers. The individuals on the list “represent the best and brightest in public-sector [information technology].”
“Kelly has continued New York’s pioneering CompStat crime-mapping strategy,” the magazine says, “but he’s also taken city law-enforcement efforts to another level, presiding over the development of New York’s Real Time Crime Center.”
The center, considered a critical tool in keeping crime low, was originally piloted in 2005 to address murder and shootings. But it was expanded in 2006 to include the addition of all police arrest records dating back to 1995, when the system also saw a number of technological improvements. The center supports over 100 detective squads and around a dozen Investigative Response Vans, and its data is available to all detectives investigating major and violent crimes including rapes, robberies, stabbings, kidnappings missing persons, and sex offenders. In his State of the City address the year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he plans to add “a comprehensive database of firearms evidence.” Soon, it will be connected to the city government’s municipal WiFi system.
Government Technology went on to praise Kelly’s involvement in the concept of the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative. The initiative will add 3,000 cameras to the streets below Canal Street below Canal Street to monitor people and cars, along with license plate readers, a command center and movable roadblocks.
Technical achievements aside, some have criticized the programs as an invasion of privacy.
“When law abiding citizens go out in public and move around,” the Cato Institute’s Jim Harper told Gotham Gazette, “they don’t expect people to use new high-tech surveillance technology in order to track us and monitor us, extracting untold information in the process.”
And although Kelly has emphasized he has no intention of keeping extraneous information, Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, criticized the Crime Center for including information on people not charged of any crime. “It’s the ‘round up the usual suspects’ syndrome,” she told the New York Times.
Still, being a leader in information technology in government isn’t saying all that much. As United Nation’s e-Government Survey this year states, “The public sector has been falling behind in these practices, compared to the private sector.”
The Police Department is no exception. “They’ve been on the trailing edge of technology,” Dennis Smith, a law enforcement expert at New York University, told the Times. The Crime Center “is like something dropped from outer space in terms of what it can do.”By Mike Muller on March 28, 2008, 11:33 am
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