Integrating Virtual Public-Private Partnerships into Local Law Enforcement for Enhanced Intelligence-Led Policing

By Simeone, Matthew | Homeland Security Affairs, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Integrating Virtual Public-Private Partnerships into Local Law Enforcement for Enhanced Intelligence-Led Policing


Simeone, Matthew, Homeland Security Affairs


Introduction

In recent years, police chiefs and sheriffs across the nation have come to the realization that local law enforcement is on America's front lines in the effort to keep our hometowns safe from terrorism. As a result, homeland security has become an important part of every patrol officer's responsibilities.

In assuming this responsibility, many local law enforcement agencies have spent millions of dollars on specialized equipment and training exercises in order to enhance their capacity to respond to a terrorist attack. In addition, intelligence reports warning of possible terrorist attacks have prompted many agencies to sporadically ramp-up police presence at high-risk locations in an effort to prevent a terrorist act. These locations typically include transportation facilities, critical infrastructure sites, and other high profile venues. The overtime bill for some agencies has been significant.

In all, billions of dollars have been spent on equipment and personnel-related costs, much of which has been subsidized by the federal government in the attempt to provide homeland security. 1 Whether our nation can continue on this course and sustain such homeland security expenditures going forward is questionable. America's economic viability, it seems, may hinge upon the ability to develop an alternative homeland security strategy to deal with terrorism and its associated threat.

Meanwhile, the capacity for law enforcement alone to prevent crime and provide homeland security may be more limited than police generally acknowledge. 2 With an average of only one sworn officer policing every 400 residents nationwide, law enforcement must rely on the private sector to help prevent and solve crimes. 3 In addition, when considering that criminals and potential terrorists may also be living or conducting preoperational planning for terrorist acts in our communities, it becomes evident that the private sector represents the largest potential source of information for solving crime, apprehending criminals, and possibly preventing terrorist attacks. One example of a private sector contribution to public safety comes from the popular television show America's Most Wanted , which has helped to apprehend fugitives who have evaded arrest for years. In some cases, arrests of fugitives have come in just a matter of hours after they have been profiled on the show.

Moreover, with roughly two million people employed in private security and approximately 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers in the United States, private security makes up nearly three-quarters of the protective workforce. 4 As the vast majority of our nation's critical infrastructure is under private control, private security firms are perhaps in the best position to be "first preventers" of crime and terrorism.

Consequently, our nation's long-term success in preventing crime and maintaining homeland security may very well depend upon the extent to which law enforcement agencies engage in partnerships with the private sector to support their public safety mission. This paper will examine virtual public-private partnerships (VP3s) and how local law enforcement agencies can use them to enhance intelligence-led policing and, consequently, make for safer communities. A VP3 can offer extraordinary leverage in utilizing the private sector as a force multiplier and has the potential to take policing to significantly higher levels of effectiveness.

INTERNET TECHNOLOGY

During the last decade, technology has changed the way we shop, bank, and spend our leisure time. With nearly 70 percent of American adults using the internet, telecommunications technology has revolutionized the way we communicate and has made the universe of ideas accessible to anyone with a computer and internet access. 5 It is safe to say that the private sector, with its profit-driven motivation, has exploited technology to its full advantage. …

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