While the past few years have been challenging for many reasons, recent FBI statistics (tinyurl.com/yhv3mwu2) indicate a disturbing trend that might be less obvious than COVID-19. Homicides and violent crime, particularly in cities, are on the rise. And unfortunately, the 2020 spike in homicides is continuing through 2021.
The current reality of law enforcement in America is one of competing forces. At the same time that homicides are growing more commonplace, police budgets are shrinking, and recruiting is at historic lows. Law enforcement officers feel more pressure than ever before to keep our communities safe while stretching fewer resources.
Flock Safety’s operating system helps close this gap with cost-effective, force-multiplying technology. We have deployed our automated license plate reader (ALPR) cameras in over 1,400 municipalities across 40 states, and we work with over 1,000 law enforcement agencies.
Cities that deploy the Flock Safety ALPR system begin to see hits on stolen vehicles and wanted suspects immediately. In Wichita, Kansas, for example, Lieutenant Casey Slaughter led a pilot program testing Flock cameras around the city, and they started receiving alerts during the installation of the cameras.
In one case solved by Wichita P.D., Slaughter describes how officers recovered not only a $12,000 vehicle but also a stolen gun and narcotics. They arrested one suspect wanted for armed robbery and another wanted on an absconder warrant.
During the four-month trial period, the ALPR program in Wichita helped police make 156 arrests, a majority of which were felony cases, recover 23 guns and 152 stolen vehicles.
“The Flock LPR program is one of the most transformational technologies in the Wichita Police Department,” Slaughter said. “We continue to see amazing results vis-à-vis apprehending violent suspects, collecting critical evidence, recovering missing persons and locating stolen vehicles.”
After a comprehensive review, Wichita P.D. leadership elected to continue and expand the program.
An integrated system to solve more crime
Last month, Flock Safety released the Raven (tinyurl.com/tadxc4je) audio detection device, a system intended to address increasing violent crime. Unlike any existing audio detection system, the Raven pairs with a Flock ALPR camera, so when it identifies audible crimes in progress, the camera captures visual evidence automatically.
While single-point gunshot detection systems segment audio evidence into a silo, Flock’s integrated audio-visual experience provides streamlined evidence capture, helping a detective build a far more robust case.
When an incident is detected, the system simultaneously alerts both dispatchers and officers in real-time, addressing the gunfire incidents and other associated crimes that too often are unreported. In addition, the Raven has a significantly expanded audio detection capability above legacy systems — it captures not only gunshots but glass breaking, saws (typically used in catalytic converter theft) and tire screeching sounds indicative of dangerous street racing.
Slaughter explained that one of his goals is building an integrated public safety technology system, where all technology systems work seamlessly together. With the Raven, officers gain another evidence-collection tool in their arsenal with minimal new training required.
Going beyond shell casings to audio-visual evidence capture
A traditional gunshot detection system’s best use case is often helping detectives retrieve evidence after an incident, like shell casings. While that is one useful piece of an investigation, it is by no means enough to close a case.
Take drive-by shootings, which many urban areas see regularly. A traditional gunshot detection system might alert dispatch to the shot, but upon officers arriving at the scene, they would have to search, often fruitlessly, for a shell casing that may be hidden in high grass, leaves, trash or damaged by vehicle traffic.
The Raven uses triangulation once it detects a sound to locate the source of dangerous crimes. While FlockOS identifies and logs the location of the sound, it activates the nearest ALPR camera to capture the vehicle(s) on the scene. Flock’s Vehicle Fingerprint technology captures not only the plate but also the make, body type, color and unique characteristics like bumper stickers, bike racks and window decals.
Now, think about the same drive-by shooting case. With the integrated Raven-Falcon system, an investigator now has a location, a plate number and a vehicle — so much more than a shell casing to begin building a case.
Addressing community concerns
We see that our law enforcement customers are committed to working hand in hand with their communities to ensure that policing tactics are transparent, equitable and just. That includes the technology systems that help maintain public safety.
Flock Safety helps to enable that layer of transparency. Flock’s ALPR data is never sold or shared with third parties. Footage is stored in a secure server and automatically deleted every 30 days on a rolling basis. The ALPR system also contains an auditable search trail for transparent oversight.
The same level of ethical oversight — and all the same safeguards — applies to the Raven. The sensor does not listen for voices or conversation; the two-second clips only capture sounds indicating crime might be in progress.
The Raven will be deployed in jurisdictions across the country and we are confident its success will mirror that of Flock ALPR. Policing is changing, and Flock Safety technology helps agencies remain at the forefront of innovative, technology-first public safety.