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India's Public Transport Security Wake-Up Call

By Alex Sorin

The news of the violent gang rape of a young Indian woman on a public bus and her subsequent death has shocked the world and led to protests and unrest. As a growing economic power and the largest democracy in the world, India must address some core issues within its society to curtail future horrors such as this. While increased security is by no means the sole solution (as the problem is rooted in years of sexual repression and a disregard of women’s rights), certain security measures can help alert law enforcement of similar incidents and assist in catching the perpetrators.

As a result of the rape and murder, the Indian Deputy Chief Minister and the Transport Minister announced that as many as 6,000 public transport buses will be equipped with CCTVs and GPS to help prevent future attacks against women riding public transport. By installing surveillance cameras and vehicle trackers, Indian law enforcement can better prepare itself to respond to future incidents and effectively identify those involved.

However, these systems must feed into some sort of Incident Management System or PSIM to allow law enforcement to quickly identify and react to these and other incidents on public transportation. This will avert confusion, the overlap of responsibilities and a delayed response. To do otherwise only results in creating a perception of security with little to show for the investment in technology. Additionally, it has not been announced whether the public transportation surveillance systems will be equipped with an audio recording or facial recognition capability. These tools could help identify both the perpetrators and the victims.

Major U.S. cities – such as Washington, DC, New York and Atlanta – have adopted Information Driven Policing strategies that are built upon such Incident Management Systems or PSIMs. While the security and social dynamics of India and the United States are different many ways, our growing adoption of policing strategies reinforced by an Incident Management System and innovative technologies have proven to be an effective and game changing tool to fight crime and terrorism. Just as the September 11 attacks, as well as public transport bombings in London and Madrid, forced western nations to acknowledge and adapt to new security realities, this most recent tragedy in India, as well as past terrorist attacks in that country, are proving to have the same effect.

Security measures alone will not eradicate violent crime; however they can prevent future atrocities and provide law enforcement with a proven tool to quickly respond to and handle such incidents. There are multiple rights groups who condemn the installation of surveillance equipment on public transportation, claiming it is a violation of privacy. Yet, India suffers from social issues such as this as well as terrorist threats (evidenced by the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai). In India’s effort stop sexual assaults and other violent crime, these security measures are a step in the right direction.

Alex Sorin is Special Assistant at Edge360, LLC, a provider of Safe Cities solutions and Physical Security Information Management integration.

  • AK Sathish

    Thanks for the writeup. The mentality of the masses should change. No matter what measures we take, still the wrong doers will find ways to break the rules. Untill the criminals are publicly prosecuted and the punishment meted out at the earliest, these sort of incidents will continue. Educating the masses is also important.