Wonders of Technology in Policing
An introduction to Women Safety Application
It is a fundamental responsibility of a state to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens. Police is the institution of the state to shoulder this responsibility. Policing challenges in Pakistan are manifold keeping in view the high population density in urban areas, socio- economic problems confronting the society and lack of rehabilitation services for the offenders who are released from jails on completion of their punishment or when the courts grant them bails.
Crime against women and the police response
Women and children are a vulnerable segment of our society, and they are victims of most of the offences or human rights violations. In this article, I would focus on the crime committed against women in our society, the response of police to the calls of women for help and the use of technology by the police to make their responses efficient.
Following are some of the instances of the crimes committed against women:
Murder/ honour killing
Harassment at workplace or on the way towards the workplace
Police have very short time to prevent the crime if that is in progress, and it is reported timely to police. Otherwise, the role of the police is just reactive. Citizens call Police Emergency Helpline 15 to report offences and call for the intervention of the police.
Emergency helpline in Punjab and its integration
Prior to 2019, the control room to receive the emergency 15 calls in Punjab was set up in each district. This control room was also responsible to dispatch the police force to the victims or the place of the reported incident. It was in 2019 that the system to receive 15 calls from all the districts of the Punjab province was integrated in Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA). PSCA hosts these operations now. It is the institution which comes up with many automated solutions to the policing questions.
Following are some advantages of this integrated system:
The call-taking agents perform their duties under one roof, and it is very handy to impart training to them and pass them instructions.
The crime data is preserved and analysed to develop hotspots on daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. This analysis helps the field officers in utilizing their resources efficiently, keeping in view the crime patterns.
Audio recordings of all the 15 calls are kept safe for a certain period, and their data is maintained. These audio recordings are helpful during the process of enquiry, investigation and trial.
Responses of the district police are measured in terms of the average time taken by the police to reach the victim or the place of incident. Reduced average response time means more efficiency in police response. Response time is one of the key performance indicators of the efficiency of any police force. Monitoring of the average response time made, the field officers take steps to reduce the response time.
Role of the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA)
Set up under the Punjab Safe Cities Authority Act, 2016, it performs the following functions:
Video surveillance of the city, and integration of the surveillance system with the first responders who are ready to act on the calls of the officers working at PSCA.
Provision of video evidence to the investigation officers.
It maintains an end-to-end encrypted communication system which remains uninterrupted during the time when other communication services are temporarily suspended on certain occasions.
Taking emergency 15 calls, maintaining the database and following up the police response.
Managing traffic of Lahore city through issuing E-challans which are received at the postal address of the owner of the vehicle.
Working as think tank agency to provide automated solutions to the policing needs, and developing applications for the use of the general public.
Through a coherent Geographic Information System (GIS), the live location of the first responders is visible to officers working at the PSCA who dispatch them to the crime scene by just clicking the dot on GIS showing the location of first responders.
PSCA is a policing revolution, and it can rightly be termed as future of policing. It is the need of the hour to tap its full potential and develop more such centres in all the big cities of the country.
Women Safety Application: A step in the right direction
Punjab Police is very advanced in using technology to meet its policing needs. One such instance is the recent launch of Women Safety Application, which is powered by the PSCA. With this application installed in their phones, police are one click away from women who are in need of emergency help.
Peculiar features of the app
Following are the distinguishing features of this application:
Ø Your exact coordinates are shared with police as these enable them to respond exactly at the place where the victim is present.
Ø There are two options to connect with the police;
1. 15 call by pressing alert button
2. Live chat: In case of live chat, a message is generated and sent to the number also which the user has got registered as In Case of Emergency (ICE) number. Live chat feature enables the victim connect with the police agent when the victim is unable to make a call or when she feels comfortable in having conversation through chat.
Ø It contains other emergency helpline numbers as well.
§ 1124 is the helpline number of Punjab Highway Patrol (PHP) which has jurisdiction along the roads around the PHP posts.
§ If one is travelling on the national highways and motorways, one may call 130 to call National Highways and Motorway Police (NH&MP).
§ Rescue 1122 services like ambulance, fire brigade and first aid may be availed by calling 1122.
§ 1043 is the helpline of Punjab Commission on the Safety of Women (PCSW) which provides legal guidance and help to the women in need of legal counselling.
Ø Location review feature enables the app users to mark any place safe, partially safe and not safe. Therefore, one can see and review certain locations. It also gives an insight into the police leadership to know which places are marked not safe, and analyse why these places are rated so. There may be a dark street requiring human intervention to be lit up. There may be some encroachments on the road leading to a girls college. The analysis of the places marked as unsafe may reveal what kind of intervention is needed to make these places safe for women.
Ø Awareness documents: This app contains certain documents regarding the rights and protection of women provided under different laws.
Role of the first responders
Police act as the first responders to reach the place of incident and redress the grievances of the victim under the prevailing laws. However, special first responder units, i.e. Dolphin and Police Response Units (PRUs), have been established in Lahore to provide immediate first response. Dolphin and PRUs are integrated with the Punjab Police Integrated Command, Control and Communication (PPIC3) centre – a subordinate centre that works under the overall supervision of PSCA, and officials here are well trained and well equipped to respond to the emergency calls of the citizens. Efficiency of these special response units is up to the mark and the average response time is much lower in Lahore as compared to that in other districts of the Punjab province.
These first responders also act on the calls and chats received through Women Safety app. Instructions have been issued to the first responders by the Inspector General of Police, Punjab, to give priority to the calls or chats received through the app and redress the complaints of the aggrieved ladies. They are further required to be polite, courteous and well-mannered while responding to the calls of women for help.
Significance of women safety app
The launch of this app is a milestone in providing protection and security to all the women across the province. Through this app, any woman in distress may call police at her doorstep and get her grievances redressed.
How to install women safety app
This app can be installed in any smart phone using its Play Store. This would be operational and ready to use after a brief registration process. All its features are user-friendly.
To conclude, it can be stated that the use of technology has made policing easier, which is otherwise tougher. Punjab Police is utilizing technology to give a sense of security and protection to the citizens. Women Safety app is one such tool through which women can connect with the police in time of emergency. It is, indeed, a step in the right direction. Using technology and automated solutions is the way forward in not only policing but also in all other sectors of life.