THE MAGAZINE

Chicago’s Big Security Shoulders

By Teresa Anderson

Each station has a light mounted on a pole that can be used to notify a supervisor of the status of the call. A green light means that the employee is on a routine call, and there’s no need for help; a blue light means that assistance is required for a high-priority call; and a red light indicates an emergency situation. Supervisors monitor all calls for patterns. A large lighted board is also mounted on one wall of the room in order to indicate how many calls are pending and the status of each.

Partnerships. The OEM coordinates public-private partnerships. Because it takes the lead in coordinating among federal and state agencies, the OEM hosts all stakeholders when planning for large events, many of which involve more than 1 million people. For example, public and private organizations met at the OEM when planning for the NATO summit held in Chicago in May 2012.

Data analysis. In another part of the OEM facility, employees monitor other information sources to maintain situational awareness. The OEM has access to more than 22,000 cameras throughout the city. The camera feeds come from both public and private sources and include traffic cameras. Visual verification can also be obtained on all city transit vehicles via GPS data.
Much of the information collected at the OEM—including video from camera feeds and audio from 911 calls—is merged with police data to create the Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR) system. CLEAR also uses real-time information from the city’s 280 police beats, including case reports, gun registrations, mug shots, probation data, criminal histories, and arrest records. Other information is pulled in as well, such as data from license plate readers detailing more than 1,000 stolen vehicles. The system compiles arrest information from 120 police departments in Cook County, where Chicago is located, and from 450 state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Using the information, the police can create a visual map linking criminals with their haunts and known associates. For example, CLEAR can link those who perpetrate crime with the other people they were arrested with, the locations they were arrested in, and their gang factions. This helps the police build a better picture of criminal enterprises. It is especially helpful in tracking violent gangs. The system has mapped 59 gangs and 625 gang conflicts. All of this data can be accessed by one of the 3,000 computers located in police cruisers. Information, such as cease and desist orders and warrants, can be pushed out to police cars via the system. “We can get information instantaneously in seconds that previously took days,” says Jonathan Lewin, director of IT for the Chicago Police Department.

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