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Give cops the tools, foil riots

comment Updated: Oct 29, 2014 23:19 IST
Hindustan Times
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The Indian police or civil administrations are simply not good at crowd management. This inability was once again in evidence last week, when communal riots broke out in Trilokpuri in East Delhi and there was a stampede at the New Delhi station.

While it is perhaps not always possible to anticipate a ‘flash mob’, a stampede can be avoided if the authorities are better prepared to tackle excess rush, an expected phenomenon during any festival season in India. However, what happened after the Trilokpuri riots was brought under control gives some hope.

In a first, the police used drones fitted with cameras to patrol the skies of the violence-hit area and recovered swords, knives, sticks and at least 70 sacks of stones from several houses. The aerial surveillance also helped it keep a tab on suspects and their movements.

The world over, police forces are adopting technology to stay ahead of criminals and ensure that they are better prepared when exigencies arise. And, there is no reason why the police and civil administrations here should not do the same, albeit within the laws governing the privacy of citizens.

According to ‘The Future of the Force: Police, Technology and Serving the Public’, a report that came out in 2013, a range of technologies including social media can help the police forces.

For example, Britain’s Metropolitan Police has a popular Twitter feed and during the Woolwich riots, its handle was used by the public to update the police on criminal activities and request information about what the police were doing.

Many other police forces, a BBC report says, use electronic notebooks that allow officers to check a suspect’s criminal record while they are at a crime scene and sensor networks that help them to covertly track people and vehicles.

This may sound a bit like science fiction but there’s also talk of using sensors on physical objects such as street furniture that would stream information round the clock to a centralised database.

However, this is not to say that technology can replace old-fashioned policing; a beat policeman and his/her connection with the community he/she serves would still remain important but robust technology can help him do his work more seamlessly and effectively so that the needs of the public are served better.