LAHORE - Lahore police have partnered with a leading cellular-phone company to help officers fight off crimes by replacing the traditional pocket notebooks with Android smartphones. The scheme represents the latest example of the police making use of IT and modern enterprise technology in its efforts to fight crime and organised gangs of criminals.

By using mobile phone devices equipped with applications designed to enable officers to record crimes without going to the police station, officers should be able to spend more time on patrol and less time on administrative duties. The move follows a similar scheme launched by the Lahore police, which have seen appointment of admin officers in each police station of the provincial metropolis to help and guide the complainants.

Lahore Operations police’s initiative would see up to 500 officers equipped with Android smartphones devices in what the force has described as one of the “biggest technological advancements in modern policing.”

The estimated cost on the project of “smart-policing” is said to be over Rs3 million. As per the contract, the police Lahore will pay service charges to the cellular-phone company on monthly basis. “As a result of this particular project, there will be an increase in the amount of time officers are able to spend on streets, dealing with crime and public safety,” said Lahore Operations Police Chief Haider Ashraf, who explained how the technology will aid officers on the beat.

“The devices include some key applications which will enable us to record information and make intelligence submissions via secure mobile phone apps.” He said “Officers will be able to enter information like electronic witness statements or particulars of suspected vehicles without having to put pen to paper back at base. Similarly, the device will allow users to view and update incidents whilst on the beat, increasing our visibility, responsiveness and presence on the streets,” Haider Ashraf said.

Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Muhammad Amin Wains also welcomed the introduction of Android mobile phone devices to the force. “The introduction of the mobile devices will ensure that officers and staff have more time to spend in their communities, offering greater visibility and enabling them to carry out their roles more effectively,” he said.

Top police officers believe since they face budget constraints, it is imperative that they continue to look towards new ways of working that ensure the neighbourhoods are safe and secure. Haider said “We continue to look for ways to revolutionise the way we do business, creating efficiency savings that will ultimately benefit the communities we serve long into the future.”

This initiative will also help eliminate chances of corruption for policemen in the name of snap-checking on roads. “The beat officer will enter the registration number of a vehicle into the smartphone and it could be verified within seconds. There will be no need to check the registration book or other documents after the scheme is implemented.

Police officers say the digital monitoring and smart policing project will help overcome the issues like accessibility of policemen since the complaints will be followed by officers automatically.

Since there was no central mechanism to monitor the police operations in Lahore, the concept of Operation Room was developed and initially it has been launched in the Model Town police division. This IT-based project is said to be the brainchild of Lahore DIG Operations Haider Ashraf who wants to revamp the police force on modern lines.

“At least 15 dashboards enable police to monitor all the incoming calls (received on Rescue-15) and police response from the nerve center,” explains another police officer, who works at the front-desk in one of the sections of the Operation Room.

This concept is totally new because no such practice exists in the department, where police dispatches could be controlled from the nerve center. The dashboard also classifies the incoming calls according to its gravity. The callers feedback will could be obtained through SMS system which enables officers to know the quality and time of police response.

Another police operator said: “The incoming calls are automatically delivered to the beat officers.” The Lahore police have also generated a concept of crime mapping. The crime hotspots are already identified. Similarly, police can broadcast messages from the Operation Room thus disseminating the information to the entire public when it is required or necessary.

The preferred fields units have been equipped with Android mobile phones with several important and special applications. For an instance, the names of proclaimed offenders released from jails or absconders are added to the watch-list of suspected persons. Even the patrolling officers can check an individual apart from vehicles.

“We are confident that this (practice) will prove a game-changer in the history of Lahore police,” said the Operations Police Chief. The cops will be able to verify the ID card of an individual by using smart-phones. After implementation of the project, no police official can harass anybody on police pickets in the name of checking because of digital monitoring from the Operation Room. The police would be allowed to seize only stolen vehicles by using the database installed in the applications.

Interestingly, the Android smart-phone holders could be monitored visually on the screen. The system will immediately set off alarms once an officer leaves the beat. The officers also expect that it would help monitor the fuel consumption as well.

The reports will be generated automatically through various filters and the supervisors will be able to access the performance of the beat officers and admin officers.

The digital monitoring and smart policing system will definitely help bring a change in the operational working of the law enforcement agency, said DIG Operations.

The project would have great practical use. “Officers will be in a position to know the locations in their beats that tend to be trouble spots and are often very sensitive to the signs of potential crimes across their beats. “Pinning crime activities on digital maps with dates, times, and exact locations will enhance police performance.”