LAHORE - Country’s first high-tech “security and operations” monitoring system has successfully been working in the provincial metropolis.

The digital policing mechanism, introduced last month in Lahore, helps officers monitor security situation, police operations, and crime happenings round-the-clock in the sprawling city.

The central operations room activated in the office of DIG (Operations) is linked up with four sub-offices in City, Cantonment, Iqbal Town, and Model Town police division. Dozens of police officials with expertise in informational technology work at the central nerve-center in three shifts.

City Operations police chief, Dr Haider Ashraf yesterday told The Nation that the “digital revolution” would definitely bring down crime rate in the metropolis. Also, the system would manage more police more effectively since it is updated automatically. “All criminals wanted to the Lahore police are documented. This initiative will also help us revamp police administration and bridge the communication gap”.

The concept of digital policing is the brainchild of DIG (Operations) Haider Ashraf and it took him almost two years to complete project, the first of its kind in this country. Ashraf says the hallmarks of this smart-policing are its strong management and accountability techniques within a police department, as well as its reliance on data collection to identify crime patterns to then choose locations and tactics to deploy resources to break those patterns. “We are moving from drills to skills and the city police are experiencing a paradigm shift sight. Adopting strong and proven management techniques will improve police working and capacity in real sense,” the officer said.

Police officers were seen handling complex security related issues in quite comfortable atmosphere in the automated operations room yesterday. “This operations room tells exactly what’s happening in Lahore. Also, we can monitor the presence of policemen, movement of police vehicles and response time,” said Abdul Rahman who works as an operator in the center of operations.

Rahman sits in front of a large screen that shows the criminals data including the record of proclaimed offenders, targeted offenders, and court absconders who are divided in three categories.

“At this point, at least 8008 proclaimed offenders including 673 of A-category are wanted to the city police”. While pointing towards the upper section of the screen, he said, “This sign shows police arrested one most wanted criminal (two hours ago).

To a question, he said most of the calls made on police helpline (Rescue 15) relates to street fight. “We have received at least 72 calls of street fight since morning,” the young operator said.

At least 500 to 600 callers seek police help in emergency everyday in Lahore. The police response time is being monitored. The average police response time across the city is estimated to 20 minutes. An officer said traffic mess and narrow streets are major hindrances in ensuring quick response.

The command and control center was established with the help of Punjab Information and Technology Board. According to officials, CCTV cameras would be installed in all the police stations of the city and the cops’ stations would be monitored through this control room. Bio-metric attendance machines have already been installed in all police stations to monitor police duties.

Citizens can register their complaints by sending an SMS to 8330 and it immediately gets referred to the concerned police officers. The SMS service has received an encouraging response by the citizens as most of the public complaints had been resolved within a short period. Police patrols are given android phones which are connected with the central operations room.

The police’s initiative to equip at least 500 officers with Android smartphone devices was described as one of the “biggest technological advancements in modern policing” in 2015. Earlier, the police had launched a new fleet of patrol cars to help curb crime in the provincial capital. More than 200 high-spec customized Toyota Corolla cars, equipped with cameras, megaphones, search lights, and first-aid kits, rolled out in city in October, 2015. These Police Response Units are deployed at several crime hot-spots and areas of concerns all over the city to ensure a quick reaction to any incident on the streets. The police department has also been working to create a ‘Dolphin’ motorcycle unit that will allow hundreds of police officers to patrol narrow streets and lanes.