Washington Post columnist Neal Peirce looks today at a revolution in information systems in which high-tech giants like IBM and Cisco are helping the world's cities address some of their most vexing problems. Memphis, of course, already has experience with this movement: Recall IBM helped implement the real-time crime-tracking approach used by the city police's Blue CRUSH initiative:
IBM already reports over 2,000 "Smarter Cities" programs worldwide. A leading example is Memphis. The city faced the dilemma of shrinking budgets even while crime -- especially violent crime -- was rising. Though 2,000 officers were responding to more than 1 million calls a year, there was scant time to "connect dots" of incidents and develop strategies.
IBM's solution (working with the University of Memphis' Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice) was to apply "predictive analytics" software to compile volumes of crime records by type, time of day, victim/offender characteristics and more.
Now Memphis has a new Real Time Crime Center that's able to pinpoint and relate crime incidents in seconds, and to predict hot spots and redeploy police officers with high efficiency. Robberies, burglaries and forcible rapes have fallen to their lowest rates in a quarter-century. Several million dollars in savings are being reported. And IBM has sharpened crime tracking and control software it can offer to cities elsewhere.