New York City has entered into what it’s calling a strategic technology partnership with Microsoft Corp. to aggregate and analyze public safety data in real-time, and provide law enforcement officers with a comprehensive view of emerging terrorist threats and criminal activity.
Announced today by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly during a press briefing inside the Lower Manhattan Security Command Center, the new Domain Awareness System will feed real-time data from the city’s existing infrastructure of security cameras, radiation detectors, license plate readers, and 911 calls onto a dashboard of large screen displays located at the command center.
The system was developed jointly by Microsoft and members of the NYPD. Microsoft handled the coding and system architecture, and the NYPD set out the system requirements, which were developed through an exhaustive series of focus groups with patrol officers and members of the 1,000-strong counterterrorism division. Microsoft has agreed to pay the city 30 percent of its gross revenues on the sale of the system to other customers worldwide.
The Domain Awareness System “will help the NYPD do more to prevent crimes from occurring and help them respond to crimes even more effectively,” said Bloomberg. He called the new data aggregation and analysis capabilities “an invaluable resource” that will not only help to identify potential terrorist activity but “can also play an important role in fighting everyday crime.”
Jessica Tisch, director of policy and planning in the NYPD Counterterrorism Division, provided a live demonstration of the Domain Awareness System, during which she walked reporters through the three main focus areas of the system: real-time alerting, investigative support and crime analysis.
Tisch showed how real-time alerts from sensors or 911 calls pop up on the large-screen dashboard and are immediately plotted on a map of the city. That information can then be relayed to officers on the street, while additional information from video cameras, suspicious activity reports and license plate readers can be cross-checked in real-time.
According to Tisch, Microsoft engineers worked directly with police officers and members of the counterterrorism division to develop the system, resulting in a system that is “perfectly tailored” to meet the needs of the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies around the country. “It is the ultimate in domain awareness,” she said.
The City has approximately 3,000 Closed-Circuit TV cameras connected to the Domain Awareness System. The majority of these cameras are in Lower Manhattan – south of Canal Street, from river to river – and in Midtown Manhattan – between 30th street and 60thstreet, from river to river. Each camera is programmed to send an automatic alarm if it records a suspicious package. The NYPD has also begun to expand camera coverage throughout the boroughs outside of Manhattan.
Likewise, the city has deployed more than 2,600 radiation detectors around bridges and tunnels, as well as on police cars, the roofs of precinct buildings and even on police officers’ belts.
“The system allows us to connect the dots,” said NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly. “All of the information is presented visually in geographic and chronological context. This allows investigators, analysts and operational personnel to generate and refine leads, to identify patters and to optimally deploy manpower,” said Kelly.
“We can track where a car associated with a murder suspect is currently located, and where it’s been over the past several days, weeks or months,” added Kelly. “If a suspicious package is left in front of a location, we can look back in time and see who left it there.”
Kelly also said that the city’s radiation detectors are fined tuned enough to tell the difference between a weapon and a person who had just undergone medical treatment involving radiation.
Examples of scenarios where the new system will help the NYPD prevent or solve crimes:
- Investigators will have immediate access to information through live video feeds, and instantly see suspect arrest records, 911 calls associated with the suspect, related crimes occurring in the area and more;
- Investigators can map criminal history to geospatially and chronologically reveal crime patterns;
- Investigators can track where a car associated with a suspect is located, and where it has been in past days, weeks or months;
- Police commanders can query databases to map, review and correlate crime information with the deployment of resources;
- If a suspicious package is left at a location, the NYPD can immediately tap into video feeds and quickly look back in time and see who left it there; or
- If radiation detectors in the field set off alarms and alert the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative command center, the new system will help quickly identify whether the radioactive material is naturally occurring, a weapon, or a harmless isotope used in medical treatments.