Police Should Increase Use of Digital Communication Tools

A new survey found that citizens across the board want more ways to report crime and to help support crime reduction efforts in their neighborhoods by leveraging new technologies.

by / April 24, 2015

Despite recent negative headlines and news reports about police interaction with citizens,  research released by Accenture on April 23 reveals a strong majority of citizens are generally satisfied with their local police services (85 percent), but that more than two-thirds believe that the effectiveness of police services would be increased by greater use of technology.

The survey, which included 2,000 U.S. citizens, found nearly nine in 10 respondents (86 percent) said they want more police services available online, and more than two-thirds (71 percent) said they want better mobile access to police services and public safety information.

The survey also found that more than nine in 10 citizens said they want their police forces to offer new ways to report crime (91 percent), increase information sharing on police services (92 percent) and collaborate with citizens through community policing programs (91 percent).

“Citizens across the board indicated that they want more ways to report crime and help support crime reduction efforts in their neighborhoods, and the way they want to do that is by leveraging new technologies,” said Wai-Ming Yu, who leads Accenture’s state and local policing business in North America. “What we’re hearing from citizens is that they want to engage. They want to use these technologies to provide feedback to their local police, to help fight crime within their local community, and to have an ongoing dialog.”

When citizens were asked how they feel about newer technologies, such as body-worn cameras, the majority of respondents indicated they approve of them.

“About 89 percent of those we surveyed said they are very supportive of new technologies such as body-worn cameras, in-car cameras, and analytics technologies for crime predication and mapping,” said Yu.

Accenture announced the findings of the survey ahead of a public safety summit to be held this weekend at Harvard University and hosted in collaboration with Leadership for a Networked World and the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard.   

Yu said police chiefs from many major U.S. cities plan to attend the summit.

“The agenda was informed by what these police chiefs care about, and top of mind was the adoption of new technologies and new channels and how to engage with citizens and be more proactive in policing communities,” said Yu. “The good news is law enforcement is already starting to think about this. The path forward is to take some of these results and map out a blueprint for how to keep pace with changes in technology.”

Yu added that despite significant interest in seeing greater adoption of technology in how citizens engage with police, there is also still a strong desire to see police on the streets.

“The feedback we are hearing is let’s not use technology to replace the police on the streets, but to supplement the good work that they do,” she said.

Additional findings of the survey included:

  • Three-fourths (75 percent) of respondents believe that crimes in their neighborhoods are reported only sometimes or rarely. The primary reasons that respondents cited for citizens failing to report crimes are not wanting to become involved in an incident that does not directly relate to them (42 percent) and fear of retaliation from a third-party (29 percent).
  • Nine in 10 respondents (91 percent) said they feel safe in their neighborhoods, but more than three-fourths (76 percent) believe there is room for improvement in how police services are delivered locally.
  • Respondents between 18 and 34 years old were likelier than older respondents to say that new technologies have the potential to increase police effectiveness — cited by 76 percent of the younger respondents, versus 60 percent of those aged over 55 years. 
  • Three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents ages 18-34 said their preferred method of communicating with police is by mobile device, compared with just 60 percent of respondents age 55 years and older.
Justine Brown Contributing Writer