LAHORE - The police department last week launched the “Local Eye” software in Lahore to step up surveillance with the help of communities and public representatives in the sprawling city. The latest initiative has been introduced in the metropolis just a few weeks after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the “digital system service” for the Punjab police.

The new crime-preventing technology was designed in collaboration with Strategic Reforms Unit to bridge communication gap between police officers and elected representatives. The plan is part of a full-fledged digital policing project that is underway in the province.

Officers say the Local Eye system, to be activated in Lahore by the end of this week, is the brainchild of Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, who wants that police operations should be conducted digitally. Therefore, the largest law enforcement agency is being equipped with software, hardware, and other communication networks based on handsets.

The Local Eye is being activated following the successful launching of Hotel Eye system in Lahore. Last year, city police had linked more than 500 hotels with the crime database at state-of-the-art control rooms.

The police provided android phones to the hotel managers and linked their computerised system to the police nerve-centers through the software in a bid to get details of all the visitors or guests. The software for hotels and inns was designed in collaboration with the Punjab Information Technology Board to collect particulars of local and foreigner guests staying in hotels. The police had arrested at least 450 criminals from different hotels after tracing them through the software. The police also checked the entries of no less than 200,000 guests in just 60 days.

Lahore capital city police officer Muhammad Amin Wains says that the changes are being made at an extremely fast rate. “Today, digital technologies are mapping crimes and police response time as well. Social media, mobile phones, and computers have become game-changing forces for the police. In future, the digital policing will be the perfect policing,” the city police chief said.

“When it comes to digital policing, we want to improve and maximize our operating efficiency. That is really very important for Lahore and other big cities such as Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, and Multan since the police department has been facing acute staffing shortages for foot-soldiers,” the CCPO said.

In recent years, Lahore police traced many blind murder cases by checking the mobile phone data of the victims. Similarly, a good number of stolen vehicles were seized during routine checking with the help of another mobile phone application.

The modern technology, in big cities, is helping police in many ways ranging from traffic management to data collection, and fingerprints matching to crime mapping. The public feedback is collected through an automated system and compiled only regular basis. However, the police department is yet to develop a mechanism to hold officers accountable in case of delayed police response.

In addition to crime-mapping, this digital system also helps city police record feedback of the victims, who call police emergency service (Rescue-15) in Lahore. In case of “actionable information” each caller is requested to report feedback.

The police use of modern technology is multiplying across the world. In addition to latest and well-equipped cars and heavy bikes, body cameras, CCTVs, in-vehicle computers, license plate readers, and fingerprint reading tools are gaining rapid adoption.

Similarly, the law enforcement agencies that adopt and integrate new technologies into their operations are becoming the police forces of the future. The Punjab police badly needs latest technology to fight organized crimes and professional criminals.

Lahore police chief, Amin Wains, believes that the increased use of digital tools or crime-fighting technologies can improve police services. “To keep our cities safe, we must equip the officers with right technology tools. Since the criminals are changing their modus operandi, the police investigators need to change the investigation methods by preserving crime scenes and tracking criminals,” the officer said.

Since physical checking of every individual or accommodation is not possible in a city like Lahore, the digital technology will enable police officers to keep an eye on their beats or areas with the help of android phones connected to community leaders.

Punjab inspector general of police Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera believes that the software, hardware, and other communication networks based on cellular phones can be helpful for police officers in laws enforcement and investigations. A police spokesman said that the police department is moving towards digital policing as per the vision of the IGP. 

According to city police chief, the basic purpose to launch the local eye software in Lahore was to bring the public representatives into national consortium as per the vision of Punjab chief minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif.

This software will help the Chairmen, Vice-Chairmen and Councilors of the local union councils to contact the top ranking police officers within a few minutes in case of any problem. The public representatives can also report complaints against police, he said.

Officers in Lahore are seen checking the records of vehicles by using their handsets these days. Within a few second, they can trace the stolen vehicles by typing the car registration numbers on the mobile phones applications.

Police officer Rana Ayyaz Saleem, who is supervising the digital police operations, said that the Local Eye software will help police improve coordination with the public at police station level. According to SSP Saleem, the police launched the new software in a bid to boost community policing according to the vision of the Punjab chief minister.

He also informed that the police officers and elected representatives in Lahore would be included in the mobile phone applications and software. This software will enable local representatives to immediately pass on information to police in case of any problem or law and order situation in their respective areas.

The officer says that technology is changing the way police operate in big cities. “We are strengthening cops stations and patrolling units digitally. Also, we are developing special wings to improve police services in Lahore,” he said.