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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Proposal for Preventing, Prosecuting and/or Monitoring Crime in Small and Large Cities

Here is a plan I propose to help further fight crime here in Cumberland,  Maryland and abroad, as I think this could be a system emulated by other jurisdictions as well once the benefits are spelled out after it has been in place.

With the modern advent of cloud computing and high speed internet as well as imaging, we are on the threshold of a new horizon technologically speaking.

My plan is rather simple.

We design a pilot program based on this foundation proposed herein, and  further evolve it as we see needed here locally.

I have volunteered my home and thoughts to a few local politicians, and I would like to outline those very sentiments in further detail herein.

Utilizing high speed internet, we ask citizens to volunteer their homes as sites where cameras, and perhaps motion detectors too, may be placed outside their homes to constantly monitor the neighborhoods, send all that data to “the cloud” through a service like Google drop box, and let it only be accessible by the authorities in law enforcement that are / or may be required to use it in the prosecution of any criminal act on the cloud and server side, yet let participants be able to monitor their own devices installed at their homes, however have no access to the cloud service at all.

As a suggestion from the State's Attorney's Office, I was informed (As I make this edit from the original content made today, January 19, 2014) that recording sound may very well be a violation of local, county, state, or federal law, and therefore this aspect should be fastidiously studied and implemented accordingly so based on that suggestion.

I would offer the same service to businesses too, with the exception that they would pay for their service and that funding could be made available and earmarked for the citizens participating to cover the costs  paid for by the city for their participation.

The participants would receive high speed internet at their homes for free from a local cable provider, and the city would pay for that service as well as the hardware, however they carefully contract that service as expected being stewards of our collective tax money to be so spent.  The homeowners ( I would only offer this (free internet) to home owners personally) would have a separate signal (be it hard wired or not) that is not at all integrated into the city surveillance system, and that should be made abundantly clear to them as well, as many feel threatened too often by modern surveillance.

With a few remote and relatively small “workstations” discreetly installed in weather proof boxes outside and servers at a location(s) in the city we could have a very simple system that would need very little maintenance and could monitor activity in real time, and would always upload via the cloud to permanent storage, which in turn could always be viewed/reviewed as so needed. The data saved should be purged as needed as well, further keeping costs more manageable.

I would suggest a weatherproof  “work station”  at each home or business where cameras/sensors are located, that is then set up to upload to both local servers and the cloud too. The servers could hold “x” amount of data, and the cloud service “y” amount of data, as further defined if such a system is determined to be cost effective and fruitful to prevent or prosecute crime as well as assist EMS crews.

We have seen a proliferation in crime recently here locally, in particular but certainly not limited too, violent and “gang” related crime, and we need to further stay more organized and vigilant against the threats we face here at home on many levels. As long as we are only utilizing these data sets to monitor dangerous areas and activities associated with organized illegal behaviors / acts, in the open public, or using the system in time of emergency situations,  we would certainly not be violating any individual civil rights.

I would also like to offer in this plan, a chip that holds homeowner data, such as residents that reside at the address, floor plans of the home, type and amount of pets, type of heating, ad infinitum, and any other information deemed required, first, and then volunteered above and beyond secondarily, so that fire and EMS crews, or law enforcement, can make a quick scan from outside the home, or even from the 911 call center, when so responding to any emergency of any kind. I have long thought this should be a technology implemented and a protocol so followed by responders so that they would be even better prepared to react safely and more efficiently.

I also think that a (the monitoring portion) system like this should have a level of access available to the homeowner too where they can monitor the exact same cameras / sensors remotely via cellular technology utilized on smart phones or via the internet and on their laptop, work station, personal device, etc.,  from where ever they are.

The police would not really need to monitor this system as much, or even at all, if  many vigilant citizens are watching often. There may indeed need to be a very specific screening process, waivers, contracts, etc. involved, but I would think the more simple the better in these aspects, as to not overly convolute and therefore pollute what should be relatively simple and straight forward always.

I envision a system where an LCD screen (or any type of personal device) can have several camera views from outside a residence/business, able to be viewed from inside a participants home or business, or  via a smart device when away, as well as abilities for audible or visual alerts, such as LED’s, text messaging, alarms, etc, for any alerts on the motion sensors being  “tripped”.  When it is deemed a response is required, the participant could have several ways to contact emergency services. As some of you may have noticed, a text will often be sent and received where a cell phone signal is poor and not able to be well utilized. I think texting, because of it working at different frequencies, is a very worthwhile tool that should be a part of this system, as well as it taking less battery power from any personal device, therefore causing less of a drain on a device that may theoretically already be very low on battery power, and again, perhaps may be unable to make an actual cellular call.

Crime may be reported in only a few ways. One, with knowledge prior to an event that an informant wants to help prevent by communicating with law enforcement. Two, after the fact, and three, during the actual event. I do not see a need for employees to monitor such a system non-stop, but rather have the citizens watch over their own homes, and neighborhood too, and then report as needed anything they find either suspicious or out of place, be it during or after the fact. This too could be done with a simple keystroke or text through the system benchmarking the datasets and time-stamping that same dataset to be further scrutinized by professionals.

Furthermore, after an event has taken place undetected, it would be simple to review all camera’s datasets in the vicinity of the alleged event to examine it further for developing suspects.

A recent example I would bring to light on my very own street of residence, from reports through face book, I understand a vehicle was found one day to have bullet holes in it as it sat parked. This is roughly an 1/8 of a mile from my home, or closer even, and had we had cameras at my home, we may have been able to review that footage and see the perpetrators  and/or their vehicle and be able to better hold someone accountable for this crime. There are many other example I could site that are certainly equally worthwhile, but I think the point is abundantly clear.

As technology further develops, we could further evolve this system, as it may ping ip addresses into the system from cell phones, cars, and other personal devices, especially if we also make these areas where cameras/sensors are utilized public hotspots.

If you want to blanket a city better then possible any other way, you always must include citizen participation and a system such as this would quickly give us a huge upper hand protecting life and limb here at home locally while further assisting in introducing criminals into the legal system.

For several years, Cumberland has indeed had the “state of the art” WiFi, however far under utilized. This system is aging, however still useful with the basic infrastructure in place, and this system is the exact system that should further be upgraded and  primarily selected to quickly form a citywide intranet of sorts to combine all of this modern technology swiftly into the fold. It may even be wise to purchase it, as it will be less of an asset to this company that owns it as the technology  becomes further dated., however that is a debate for a different day, but something that should be highly considered in my opinion, as it is all still very useful.

I had an instructor in college, Mr. Pever a retired Alexandria, Virginia Police Officer, who stated to me (our class) in roughly  1989 that if you really want to make money and help prevent crime, think about the safer business of security through modern technology, that he precisely eloquently predicted would explode in the coming decades , and was, of course, wholeheartedly correct, rather then placing your life in harms way as an actual police officer.

I have studied a lot of this at length and for a very long time, and have for a very long time thought on my own, how would I help our city where I reside, if given the chance, to reduce crime and maintain a safer place to live for myself and my neighbors? The chance to articulate these ideas is free, and the time is upon me to do so now, more so then ever for a plethora of reasons, mostly contained herein.

I am vigilant for Freedom, and never one to support taking inalienable rights from any citizen in good standing.  I state that because any system that I would help design would have this premise first and foremost as a fundamental foundation to its entire concept and be embedded into its evolution as well.

To more efficiently we fight crime, we save tax dollars, because we have less time spent  investigating that can be utilized elsewhere and  less funding paid towards the possibility and all too likely expensive overtime most departments consistently run into, and in turn, these funds could most efficiently be then utilized implementing and maintaining a system as such stated herein, as well as other areas of the budget.

These thoughts are general guidelines and suggestions to follow and consider, and I can further get more specific, if real interest is shown, as well as offer my own expertise in design and research.

A less burdened legal system (the courts in particular) also would be money saving as well, as better evidence helps to further buttress the state’s case against any criminal element, be it individual or a collective, and more often then not promises a much more efficient (think time wise = money) resolution to the legal matters so generated by an offense(s). Once again further saving tax payer dollars that could be better spent in the implementation and maintenance of said system, and/or elsewhere.

When transitioning in any aspect, finances must be considered at all angles and facets so that the expenses may be justified, and upon further examination, we can certainly find a myriad of reasons  that would further support this statement.

Keep in mind also, we may be able to place technology in “right of way” areas as well.

The greatest facet today that we are experiencing with all of this technology is the quick developmental technological evolution and price dropping of these said technologies that places us on a very exciting cusp of opportunity in so many ways today, be it more efficient energy production with less pollutants, better and safer defense, ad infinitum.

Do not overlook remote safe places where drones could be launched as well, like my roof top, as an example!, where it could reside in a safe weatherproof housing that is also a charging station, again making for a much quicker and more efficient response for law enforcement an/or EMS crews.

In 2010 I was honored to be published by the U.S. Department of Energy, and it was on the topic of utilizing this technology to build a new marketplace in this Green Era in most every aspect of modern living, giving our country the ability to be the example we have swiftly become as we are indeed in the midst of this massive paradigm shift everywhere we look today.

I have worked with computers since I was a child as well, building, programming, repairing, selling, ad infinitum, and I have also worked on cars (controlled by computers today) since I was 15, as well as bicycles in shops and at home since I was 5. My point being, at 47 today, I have a degree in science with a major in Police Science as well as a very mechanical mind. I am an artist too, writing and recording music poetry, working on a book and other projects, and aspire deeply to remain visionary in both my art and public service desires, always promoting and maintaining peace and freedom where I can assist. I feel it is a citizen’s responsibility to be both diligent and vigilant.

I have given much of this decades of thought and study and feel certain a system, as I have described herein, could easily be in service very fast, easily expandable, with minimal true expense on the ledger sheet, and in place protecting us further against those that do too often choose to infringe on our freedoms and property.

Law Enforcement and EMS employees can only be as effective as the tools they have in their collective arsenal to combat crime and/or chaos.

Let’s please seriously consider taking these measures, and carefully but quickly, plan a precise way to move forward, so offering these tools to law enforcement, EMS crews, as well as our citizens, us,  here at home to combat crime so that we can spend more money and time focusing on the larger issues at hand.


John Stephen Swygert