The New York Police Department’s (NYPD) newest squad car drives on data. The prototype “smart car” that the NYPD has been road-testing for about a year is outfitted with the latest safety and surveillance devices available to the department, including a video camera that can send a live feed of crime scenes back to headquarters; air sensors that detect radiation and other contaminants; and infrared monitors that scan license plate numbers and addresses and check them against a database to identify stolen vehicles or other problems. It’s the police cruiser of the future, and it exists now.
The prototype, which is based in the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn Heights, helps officers connect the intelligence they gather in the field with the data-crunching system at headquarters. The system analyzes incoming data, including video feeds and other raw info, then alerts officers to potential incidents and crimes. The idea is to help get police to crime scenes faster — and better prepared.
The smart car is just one of dozens of initiatives included in NYPD2020, a long-term strategic plan that the department began in 2011 with the help of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Other projects involve counterterrorism awareness training for traffic cops, new guidelines for recruiting and retaining talent in the force, equipping officers with smartphones that can offer up-to-the-minute crime data, and the completion of a new 30-acre training academy in Queens.
There’s an emphasis on high-tech in NYPD2020, which could be a boon for public safety and the police force. Making use of technology should ideally strengthen police’s impact without exposing them to greater risk.