'Severe Deficiencies' for Baltimore City SystemBy Ben Wood, Published Dec 11, 2013, 12:00am EST
A "hodgepodge of basic query services and secretarial work” containing “severe deficiencies, including understaffing” is the conclusion of Baltimore Police Department’s strategic plan for improvement about their much bragged about Citiwatch system for “complete domain awareness.” In this note, we review the report and the key issues identified.
The Baltimore Police Department's Analytical Intelligence Section includes the Crime Analysis Unit, the Watch Center, the CitiWatch Unit, and the Comstat Unit. The report offered critiques for all of them. It says the main problem with the Crime Analysis Unit is that it is understaffed and receiving inadequate data from the other Intelligence Section Units. The unit, with six employees is understaffed by 40 employees, according to the report.
“Neither the Watch Center nor the CitiWatch Units are reaching their potential as valuable intelligence resources," the report says. "The Watch Center should function as a real-time, intelligence fusion center, while the CitiWatch should function as the Department’s lead on citywide CCTV and other electronic intelligence resources.” Citiwatch cost $10 million for the first 300 cameras and costs $1.4 million annually to operate.
Instead, staff from the Watch Center are overrun with “tasks that could be done by police cadets or clerical staff.” Baltimore wants analysts to do more analysis, not clerical work. The police department wants to hire more people who can do that clerical work.
Lack of Timely and Accurate Data Coming In
"Much of this stems from the present lack of ability for field officers to conduct remote data entry, but also from poor data practices – namely a proliferation of databases outside of RMS, a massive data entry backlog, poor prioritization of data entry in the Records Unit, missing or incomplete data in existing databases including RMS, widespread use of unofficial data, and errant CAD reports that are never corrected by officers on scene," the report says.
Duplication of Efforts?
The report questions whether there is a duplication of efforts between the Watch Center and CitiWatch. The Watch Center is a command center that was initially only activated for special events, but now runs 24/7. Like Citiwatch it can monitor all of the city’s cameras. However it’s not clear if they can also pull in LPR, GPS, and social media data and access other agency cameras like CitiWatch.
Baltimore’s plan is to increase staffing and consolidate its intelligence activities. The police department says it will also clearly define and separate the distinct duties of CitiWatch and the Watch Center, according to the report.
The Watch Center will branch off to be more of a fusion center and a central location for the police department’s intelligence databases and will be renamed the Strategic Intelligence and Threat Analysis Center. CitiWatch will take over all operations related to surveillance cameras and will also be renamed.
Our calls to the Baltimore Police Department to talk more about how they plan to help CitiWatch to reach its potential were not returned.
Smaller to medium-sized agencies looking to get these big systems should ask themselves these questions: Do I have the resources to use a 600+ camera system to its full potential? And do I have the resources to handle all the paperwork and requests that will start pouring in now that you have eyes on so many places? We saw this problem in a justice complex with 1800 cameras. Not only did they need 20-30 people monitoring the cameras, but they were inundated with requests for footage for lost cell phones.
The report also raises the question: Is PSIM enough? CitiWatch only touches a small portion of Baltimore Police Department's intelligence operations. There is still database entry, 911 calls that PSIM doesn't address.
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