Jun 17, 2011
Cell phones in the fight against crime
In San Pedro Sula, Honduras, considered the second most violent city in Latin America, a pilot project was carried out in 2010 to assess the use of cell phones to record and report crimes.
The city’s police force, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), carried out an electronic mapping, or e-map, of crime in the Juan Lindo district. The e-map was developed from data sent by cell phone to a central system by police on the beat, thus streamlining the tasks of identifying and reporting crimes.
Previously, the police performed these tasks manually and there was no feasible way to map the information. The three-month pilot project collected and processed the data in real time, automating the reporting process and improving visualization of the information to identify areas with a high incidence of the most common types of crime. Such programs provide a foundation for developing plans for more effective crime prevention.
The project began with the development and implementation of technology, followed by the selection and training of 60 officers whose duties included monitoring different areas in the district. In groups of 10, the police received training in computer science, both as applied to computers and to the latest generation of cell phones.
The pilot experience demonstrated that police effectiveness can be strengthened in a short time and with only a modest budgetary impact, according to IDB specialist Jorge Srur, the project’s team leader. "The aim of this pilot project was to prove that small changes can yield big results, very quickly and at minimal cost, in developing countries where security systems are at an early stage of institutional and technological development," he said.
The model, which was based on a similar initiative in the city of Santa Tecla, El Salvador, can be carried out in modified form. The Honduran Ministry of Security and the National Police adopted a system in partnership with local media that called on local residents to report on crimes through its website.
The Honduran government expects that the pilot project will be continued and implemented in other areas of San Pedro Sula, and eventually throughout the country.