Market Insight

The Benefits of Safe Cities

May 17, 2017


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For the first time in history, more people around the world live in cities than in rural areas. By 2030, over 60 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities. While this global migration to urban areas improves the living standards, health and financial prosperity of these citizens, it brings challenges to a city’s infrastructure, resources, security procedures and emergency response systems. Meeting these challenges is critical to the success of cities in the decades that follow.

The safe city concept has been developed to help government stakeholders, city mayors, and police departments mitigate these demands. Leveraging the connectivity now found in core security and safety technologies, safe city solutions are helping city leaders to better protect their citizens from a range of threats including crime, terrorism and natural disasters.

What are the benefits of safe cities?

Cities around the world face diverse issues. Risk levels are impacted by factors including the geographic location, financial prosperity, population density, increased terrorism, crime and the political situation of a city. Furthermore, some cities have already installed extensive security technology solutions while others have relatively little infrastructure deployed.

In order to measure the impact of safe city investments, IHS Markit analysed a number of safe city projects by four different indexes: government investment; safety result; social benefit; and economic benefit. Each index was compiled from 26 indicators to reflect the various measures of a successful project defined as: 

  • Government investment: measures the level of a government or city administration’s continued commitment to spending on safe city ICT equipment as well as the level of ICT competence, the police resource allocated to public safety and the coverage of physical security and critical communications equipment
  • Safety result: measures the level of crime, the risk to individuals and property from riots, protests, terrorism, and kidnapping as well as the public’s perception of crime and the police department’s ability to respond to events quickly and effectively
  • Social benefit: measures social benefits such as the ability to enjoy entertainment, leisure and sporting events safely, the public’s appreciation of the government and police force based on their response to security and whether talented employees are moving to the city
  • Economic benefit: measures economic benefits such as personal wealth and prosperity, spending on tourism and retail, employment rates, city investment and the risk and prevention of serious economic challenges happening in the short-term

The three investment stages of safe city projects

Government investment in safe cities can be segmented into three distinct stages. The first stage refers to the initial installation of video surveillance cameras and critical communications. The command-and-control infrastructure is deployed enabling the city authorities to communicate more effectively, and video surveillance provides evidence and a deterrent in the highest risk areas of the city.

The second stage is characterized by new city stakeholders joining the steering group and influencing the technology direction. This stage often is challenging for the city as project complexity increases while the benefit remains stagnant. The final stage of investment represents more advanced integration, co-operation on data and analytics and the implementation of predictive crime centres.

Initial investment is focused on safety results and delivering a decrease in the city’s crime rate

The initial government investment in a safe city project is primarily about safety and security. At this stage, only the city’s critical locations are covered by video surveillance cameras, basic command and control equipment is deployed and the government begins to build the ICT infrastructure required. An example of this stage can be seen in Nairobi, Kenya where, after successful completion of phase one of its safe city implementation, crime dropped by 46 percent.

As much of the infrastructure and technology is not already deployed, the required government investment is high. However, the benefits are quickly realised and can drive a large increase in the safety result with significant improvements in property and individual risk levels, police conviction rates and emergency response times.

Social benefit and citizen happiness are most important in the third stage

If the safety result benefits most from the initial government investment, the social benefit score improves most in the third stage of government investment. A key component of the social benefit score is citizen feedback on the government and police, and the general happiness of citizens living in the city. The security and safety improvements made during the initial investment phase take time to have an impact, but ultimately create the platform for an improvement in the social benefit score. Citizens appreciate the value of innovative solutions that make them safer, increasing their appreciation of the government and police force.

What makes a successful safe city project?

The safe city is ultimately a government-driven approach to security. However, multiple stakeholders must be involved. The continuous evolution of technologies, city structure, and security requirements, means a broad range of expertise is needed to make safe city projects a success. Strong government support facilitates these projects, but ultimately a collaborative approach between the government stakeholders, including public health, fire and rescue, and social services, its citizens, and technology firms will provide the best opportunity for successful safe city projects.

Understanding the different stages of investment, and the associated benefits and challenges, can help cities reach a positive outcome. Whether it is first stage government investment driving an increase in the safety result, or third stage investment improving the social and economic situation of citizens, safe city solutions have a positive impact on the general wellbeing of the people working and living in the city. 

The IHS Markit Benefits of Safe Cities whitepaper covers the latest trends in Safe Cities strategies.

Research by Market
Security Technology
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