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When safety matters most: The impact of high-res aerial imagery in public safety

03 Sep 2020 9:27 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

By Brett Clark, Director, Public Sector, North America at Nearmap

Keeping communities safe is a loaded responsibility in today’s current climate. Whether serving high risk warrants, planning crowd control and road closures, or assisting emergency response, world-class aerial imagery from Nearmap offers public safety officials decision-supporting detail that is reliably up-to-date, and instantly accessible. It’s about finding more peace of mind in planning when you’re working extremely hard to keep the peace.

Public safety departments across the nation are finding new and better ways to use accurate location data to help keep their communities safer than ever before. Chicago Police Department and Shelby County employed the use of Nearmap and eliminated unnecessary processes to tighten and improve their safety evaluation workflows.

Chicago Police Department (Illinois)
Challenge: Improve response times and minimize risk to officers

Chicago Police Department, the second largest police force in America (after New York), combined Nearmap with its existing GIS three years ago to pull exact mapping data on every emergency call location in the city (an area of over 300 square miles), speeding up response times and giving first responders an instant sense of the environment they were walking into.

The same data is used to scout locations for installing crime cameras and is available to the city’s 14,000 police officers. Nearmap easily integrates with other software and data sets from property tax and event management, allowing a high degree of predictive policing. The result of this effort is a murder rate that declined by more than one-third in four years.

Shelby County (Tennessee)
Challenge: Outdated, unreliable location maps

As the largest county in Tennessee, it was imperative for Shelby County to have access to true location intelligence in their dispatch center. The heart of the operation sits in Memphis, home to the Emergency Communications District, which operates the local 9-1-1 emergency system.

For each dispatch center, the District provides county address location mapping. A secure database contains the exact 9-1-1 address for any associated phone numbers. This database is queried at the time of a 9-1-1 call to obtain the caller’s location. The data is then placed in dispatch and 9-1-1 mapping software to help fire and rescue, emergency medical services and law enforcement get instant access to current, consistently clear aerial maps. Overlaying the imagery with GIS data allows emergency personnel to get to the right locations as soon as possible.

For years, Shelby County’s aerial image process required a contracted flight to photograph the county areas. Because of the high cost of capturing those images, the county purchased images only once every two years, after pooling resources from various county entities.

“While the images were high resolution, there were issues with mosaicking the separate images together. And since the imagery was taken every two years, many rural and unincorporated areas were out of date,” said Timothy Zimmer, the GIS Administrator for Shelby County’s Emergency Communications District. With out of date images, the county had to develop alternate methods to locate addresses for the 9-1-1 system.

Subscription-based aerial imagery and ArcGIS

With both the Chicago PD and Shelby County, Nearmap provided a better and more efficient way to map routes or plan camera installations for public safety. Having access to stunningly clear aerial content at their fingertips means public safety officials can respond quicker in an event and know exactly what exists on the ground. And because Nearmap captures imagery up to three times a year in major urban areas, public safety officials can compare leaf-on/leaf-off seasonality to track changes and identify any problem areas.

Beyond clear views and current captures, another big advantage Nearmap provides is the ability to integrate the imagery directly into the ArcGIS suite of products, such as ArcMap, ArcPro and ArcGIS Online. Inclusively, our integration partnership with RapidDeploy, one of the industry’s leading emergency response platforms, allows our products to increase situational awareness. Being able to overlay GIS information onto the high-resolution imagery provides critical insight for planning and scaling operations appropriately.

“Before Nearmap, we had gaps where we wouldn’t have updated imagery. We’re able to stay on top of new developments, roads, and addresses. Being able to have Nearmap imagery integrated into our GIS systems helps us be much more accurate,” shared Timothy Zimmer, GIS Administrator for Shelby County.

To learn more about Nearmap and the rich catalogue of aerial data proactively captured across the U.S. and Canada, visit Discover the benefits of integrating true location intelligence into your public safety planning measures, because what you don’t see, could be costing you.

About the Author

Brett Clark was employee #2 at Nearmap in the U.S. when it started capturing aerial data in 2014. As company leader in the government space, Brett focuses heavily on the public sector, both with state and local entities. His goal is to help improve the processes and systems used by city and state officials with unmatched visualization of their communities. Brett currently resides in Indianapolis with his wife and three daughters.

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