Using Data & Smart Tech to Stay Safe

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 11:17 a.m. January 24, 2019

The Toronto Police Service is at the forefront of using data and smart technology to improve public safety.

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Members of the Business Intelligence and Analytics Unit were recognized for their work making geospatial data available to help direct policing services as well as share with the public

The Service recently won the Public Sector Leader Award as part of the annual Public Sector Digest (PSD) ranking of Canadian government organizations.

PSD Research Consulting Software met with Geographic Information System (GIS) practitioners and organizations to create a survey to gather feedback on public sector GIS practices to create the ranking system of 146 organizations who participated.

The Business Intelligence & Analytics Unit (BIAU) is responsible for the enterprise geospatial environment – BI 360 – at the Toronto Police Service.

BI 360 incudes desktop GIS, geodatabases, geocoding, internal/public apps and its  Public Safety Data Portal, where anyone can download open data or use a variety of charts and maps to understand the public safety picture of the city.

The BIAU team develops and manages the technology for internal and public use.

“This award is significant,” said BIAU Manager Ian Williams. “This technology is critical to our business… From a policing perspective, the award demonstrates investment and the work that the Service puts into this. From a public perspective, when you look at the volume of work we have put into the Public Safety Data Portal, there are decision-making tools there that are unprecedented in our industry. This is a great example of innovation at the Service and demonstrates our leadership in Smart City technology use.”

The approach is integral for  The Way Forward Recommendations #2 and 17 and supports the Service’s increased use of data and analytics.

When you look at the volume of work we have put into the Public Safety Data Portal, there are decision-making tools there that are unprecedented in our industry

Debbie Verduga, was the team lead in creating the portal.

“This is something we worked on for about two years,” she said. “It started with developing a strategy and just overall trying to grasp the idea of adopting an open data initiative and how we can implement it.”

Williams said Verduga’s role in the process was critical.

“She had to create the foundation and we worked with partners like the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario to make sure that what we were doing met privacy standards and was something they could use as a benchmark for other jurisdictions as well,” he said.

Verduga has worked closely with Traffic Services to create a series of apps include a RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) app designed for strategic and tactical deployment to reduce impaired driving.

“As we were developing a plan for the 2018-19 RIDE program, we figured that we should be giving officers tools to do enforcement efficiently and effectively,” said Sgt. Brett Moore, noting the app gives them a more sophisticated tool to predict where impaired driving may occur using a variety of factors, including where past arrests have been made, calls to 9-1-1 reporting suspected impaired driving as well as locations of licensed establishments. 

“The RIDE app is available to officers, especially the analysts back at the Divisions to help guide decisions as to where officers should be assigned,” Moore said.

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