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9/10/2008
03:56 PM
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New York City Enhances Technology For Crime Fighting

Residents and visitors can now send photos and videos to document their complaints to government.

The city that never sleeps has gone high-tech with its system for crime reporting and municipal complaints.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday that the city would accept photos and videos from people reporting crime and quality-of-life complaints. The news follows a similar announcement last month, when the New York Police Department said it would accept anonymous tips through text messages.

During his State of the City address at the beginning of the year, Bloomberg promised to implement the technology.

People who call 911 from the five boroughs can now offer operators images related to their complaints. Call center operators will enter a special code in the police communications system to automatically alert a real-time crime center and provide the caller's telephone number to detectives. Detectives then call the victim or witness and provide instructions on how to send the photo or video.

Police may share the images with the general public or other law enforcement groups to help solve crimes. The images can be used to assess the severity of an emergency. They can also be entered into a crime database for link analysis, which can help identify and locate suspects.

The new capability also extends to the city's 311 call service, which fields about 15 million calls a year (compared to the 11 million the NYPD receives each year) from people with questions and complaints about New York City. Callers must inform 311 operators that they have photos or video to receive instructions for sending images, or they can log in to the local government home page, NYC.gov, to upload the images.

Bloomberg said operators would accept up to three images to document complaints about potholes, traffic signs, dirty vacant lots, streets and sidewalks, parking meters, bus stops, parking lots, parks, and public pay phones. Next year, the call center plans to accept photos for additional types of complaints.

"I built a business on the idea that we could improve companies' performance by delivering better information instantaneously, and I've tried to bring that same philosophy to government," Bloomberg said. "By upgrading 911 and 311 to accept photos and video, we are bringing government accountability -- and crime-fighting -- to a whole new level. If your cell phone is equipped with a camera -- and many are these days -- you might be able to get a picture of something that will help the police solve a crime."

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that images are more powerful than words in terms of fighting crime.

John Feinblatt, Bloomberg's criminal justice coordinator, said that the upgrades will allow residents to "be the city's eyes and ears like never before."

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