Operation Snap in Wales improved road safety and reduced fatalities by 40%. By enabling secure public reporting of road traffic offenses using videos and photos, Welsh police overcame budget cuts while improving results.
Are you one of the many people who has installed a vehicle camera to protect your family?
Have you ever captured a bad driver or traffic offenses on video? What happened next?
Frustrated activist citizens may post to YouTube, but does that do anything to address the problem or help law enforcement mitigate a growing safety concern? The leading cause of death in the US among 2- to 34-year-olds is automotive accidents.
Though it sounds somewhat cold, it’s a fact that the economic impact of a human loss is over $7m on average. The grief is incalculable, the statistical economic impact of accidents can be felt widely, with hundreds of millions of dollars of true long-term cost.
If you google “report bad drivers,” you will get 171 million results, but the reporting process can be long, expensive and sometimes a bureaucratic dead-end in the United States.
A novel approach now proven in the UK that empowers citizens to save lives through low-friction action presents an interesting shift with a very positive return – saving human lives – and grief.
With state and local police often overburdened with violent crime or other priority policing matters, reports of dangerous drivers or traffic offenses can sometimes just sit and wait for more back-office staff to be hired.
Perhaps you wonder: Isn’t there an easy to use, secure way for anyone to report road incidents?
If you live in Wales, UK, the answer is a resounding yes!
Operation Snap is a joint initiative managed by GoSafe, the Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership, on behalf of the four forces in Wales: Dyfed-Powys Police, Gwent Police, North Wales Police and South Wales Police. It was launched to allow members of the public to report road traffic offenses using video and still images taken on smartphones or helmet, bar and dash cameras. Using security solution provider Egress’ secure data collection and collaboration technology, citizens are able to easily upload the footage or images to a single portal, which is then stored and securely accessed by police and accident review teams without more feet on the street.
“The police have been receiving complaints from members of the public about dangerous and anti-social driving for years now and we knew that, at a time when there are fewer traffic police than ever before, that footage could help us warn and prosecute more dangerous drivers to improve behavior and prevent fatalities,” explained Inspector Steve Davies, a constable with South Wales Police with over 20 years experience who worked to deliver Operation Snap. “However, in the past, there hasn’t been a good way for people to share that footage with us – either police forces won’t accept it because it’s from a third-party or the process of uploading it was so arduous members of the public gave up before finishing. We knew that there had to be a better way of facilitating the process.”
The team behind Operation Snap sought a solution that would easily facilitate uploads by members of the public and would eliminate the 28 step evidence collection process that was just too burdensome. It was also critical to the team that the data could be stored and accessed securely, and so required a solution that worked effectively for the public without friction and provided the strongest levels of security and auditing capability possible for streamlining police processes.
Operation Snap's #1 goal is saving lives on the roads.
Since Operation Snap was officially launched in December 2017, an average of 140 videos and images per month have been uploaded through the Operation Snap website. Where previously it would have, at best, taken a member of the public 90 minutes to upload their footage, or at worst could not have been submitted at all, it now takes up to 10 minutes and can be easily accessed and managed by participating police forces across Wales.
This has led to a dramatic increase in the ability to deal with footage of dangerous driving that’s submitted by citizens, leading to increased early intervention by the police and ultimately an anticipated reduction in fatalities on the roads by up to 40 percent. Operation Snap estimates that this will save 650 lives every year if rolled out across the UK.
“The idea: policymakers looking to spur change in citizen behavior, like encouraging better saving for retirement, shouldn’t try and change behavior top-down, but that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions bottom-up could be a very effective way of pushing the decision-making of groups or individuals in socially beneficial ways. …”
Interview With Teresa Ciano On Operation SNAP
To learn more about Operation Snap, as well as the potential global impact of this impressive program, I spoke with Teresa Ciano, the Partnership Manager at GoSafe, Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership.
Teresa Ciano has been working with safety cameras since 2005 when she was employed by the then Mid & South Wales Safety Camera Partnership as a Data Analyst. Teresa was promoted to Operations Manager in 2009 and since 2017 has been the Partnership Manager for GoSafe, the Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership.
Teresa’s management office delivers Strategic planning, Project Support, Communications and Marketing, data and performance reporting as well as policy writing and compliance. She also oversees the work of four operational police units for GoSafe and two Central Ticket Offices.
Teresa has worked on a number of key projects for the partnership, including the formation of an All Wales Partnership, digitization of fixed cameras and the introduction of an online traffic offense system for footage from the public (Operation SNAP). Teresa leads on data for the Welsh Government Strategic Road Safety board and was appointed Chair of Road Safety Wales in May 2018. Recently, Teresa has overseen the adoption of operation Close Pass, with a successful trial complete this will now be rolled out across Wales.
Dan Lohrmann (DL): Can anyone submit a video or input? Where do they go (website) and what are the guidelines?
Teresa Ciano (TC): Yes. The form is available for any resident to submit at: Gosafesnap.wales – with the video or images uploaded providing the supporting documentation for the offense being reported by the citizen.
DL: How long does it generally take the end user? Do slow networks cause the submission process to have issues?
TC: Generally five or ten minutes on average. Performance has been excellent, with minimal reported delays.
DL: What percentage of videos are pursued? What percentage lead to traffic convictions or other penalties?
TC: Response varies for a wide variety of reasons, mostly to do with how the officer applies their discretion in prosecuting the offense, which is normally influenced by the type of offense and any disposal options allowable within the legislative framework. When a submission is made, the team will get an email notifying them to review it and this is when they start work. All reports are processed in a timely manner, and the majority lead to some action being taken. Actions range from: no further action (normally where the vehicle registration details are unavailable, or there is insufficient evidence for us to prosecute the offense), a fixed penalty with points (depending on the offence), a driver education course from UKRoEd, or prosecution in the court.
DL: Is this program being expanded to England or other areas outside of Wales?
TC: Yes, several other police departments are deploying now, and Operation Snap is included as a part of this United Kingdom case study entitled: Bold new measures to keep people safe on the roads. Content covered includes:
DL: Any complaints about privacy? Big brother complaints?
TC: We’ve built privacy and security into the entire process from the start, and this was very important to us. We comply with European privacy regulations, such as GDPR, and this is a voluntary program where citizens opt-in to report road incidents. The end results have been quite impressive, and we have received very few complaints. In fact, as shown in this study, using video technology in appropriate ways dramatically reduces complaints.
When questions arise, we are available to help, or citizens can access our FAQ page at: www.gosafe.org/faq/operation-snap/
DL: How do you ensure a fair investigation and videos or pictures are not taken out of context - or fake reporting?
TC: We follow set policies and procedures that are repeatable and consistent with each submission. Each of the reviewing officers is an experienced police officer and any suspicion of maliciousness would be investigated and, if necessary, prosecuted. We haven’t received any to date.
DL: Has the public feedback been positive?
TC: Yes. However, we have experienced some dissatisfaction with our inability to share outcomes with those who submit the initial footage. Due to legal restrictions about privacy, we often cannot name specific details regarding actions taken with the person(s) who submit the original statement and evidence.
Nevertheless, we are working on providing more information to the public, in compliance with U.K. law and privacy rights of individuals.
My Closing Thoughts
When I first read this case study and spoke with Teresa, all I could say is “Wow – what a very impressive program!”
In all my years of blogging, I have never seen a better example of using technology on a project that solves a significant societal issue, addresses government needs caused by budget cuts, made so much common sense, achieved public good, used crowdsourcing of citizen data from the public to help solve ongoing policing problems, and ensured that the entire process was secure and private.
For more than a decade I have been writing that, in order to succeed, cybersecurity must be an enabler of innovation and the “secret sauce” that leads to new digital transformations to improve the daily lives for people.
But naysayers often argue: “Security does not bring an ROI. Or, show me real-world examples.”
These people need to study Operation Snap in Wales, UK. In fact, this is my favorite current example of bringing innovation through a combination of people, process and technology to achieve a public good – with cybersecurity as an essential, enabling driver (pun intended). Hats off to everyone in the government and Egress for creating this program.
I have no doubt that similar projects can (and likely will) be launched in the US and around the world to save lives on our roads.
Looking for the latest gov tech news as it happens? Subscribe to GT newsletters.