NYPD launches new analytics tool for fighting terror, crime

Citys new Domain Awareness System was developed in collaboration with Microsoft

New York City is using a new data aggregation and real-time analytics tool to combat crime and terror threats in the city.

The new Domain Awareness System (DAS), developed jointly by the New York Police Department and Microsoft, gives city law enforcement officials a way to aggregate and analyze data from surveillance cameras, license plate readers, radiation detectors, 911 calls, previous crime reports and multiple public safety databases.

The system enables a comprehensive view of developing threats and criminal activity, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press conference Wednesday. It gives law enforcement officials a way to quickly access and correlate the information needed to respond in the most effective manner to such threats, he said.

"[DAS] capitalizes on new powerful policing software that allows police officers and other personnel to more quickly access relevant information gathered from [multiple public safety data streams]," Bloomberg noted. "It will help the NYPD do more to prevent crimes from occurring and help them respond to crimes even more effectively."

So far, close to 3,000 closed-circuit TV cameras, most of them located in lower Manhattan, midtown Manhattan and at strategic bridges and tunnels have already been linked to the new system. Eventually, the plan is to link DAS to cameras, license plate readers and radiation detectors from the city's five boroughs. The devices will stream data to the system around the clock. Data from cameras will be purged every 30 days unless there is a reason to keep it longer.

DAS is housed in the NYPD's Lower Manhattan Security Initiative command center and provides real-time alerts on potential security threats. Operators and analysts at the command center can use the system's graphical interface to quickly pull up and correlate public safety, geospatial, chronological and other information that might be relevant to a specific alert.

For example, if a radiation detector is set off anywhere in the city, the system will immediately alert the center and help operators there quickly determine if the radioactive material is a weapon, or an isotope used in a medical device. Similarly, if a suspicious package is discovered at a location, or a criminal activity has occurred there, the NYPD will be able to use DAS to quickly pull up archived video feeds and look back at what might have happened. Using the technology, the NYPD can not only track a suspect's car in the city, but also determine where the vehicle might have been the preceding days, weeks and even months.

"By coordinating our alerting system with vast amounts of data, the system allows us to connect the dots," NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at the press conference. The system will allow city law enforcement personnel to generate and refine leads, to identify patterns and optimally deploy manpower to deal with both potential terror threats and street crime, he said.

Microsoft, which developed DAS in collaboration with NYPD, will market the technology to other police departments around the country and the world. Under an agreement, the company will share 30% of the revenue from such sales with New York City.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

See more by Jaikumar Vijayan on Computerworld.com.

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