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​​Most Sydney-siders Willing to Submit Evidence to Police via Digital Channels, But Support for Surveillance Varies -- Unisys Survey

Unisys study finds Sydney residents will submit digital photos, text messages, video and audio as evidence to police as long as privacy concerns addressed

Sydney, 31 January 2018 – Nearly nine in 10 Sydney-siders are willing to use online digital media to submit potential evidence to law enforcement bodies, suggesting an opportunity for Australian public safety agencies to promote and use more interactive platforms to exchange information with the public, according to a new "Safe Cities" survey sponsored by Unisys Corporation (NYSE: UIS). 

The global study, conducted by research company YouGov, surveyed nearly 4,000 respondents in 10 cities, including 398 in Sydney, to gauge their attitudes toward participating in community policing and public safety initiatives. The 10 cities covered by the survey are Sydney, Singapore, Amsterdam, Rome, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Mexico City and Sao Paulo. 

Half of the Sydney residents surveyed say that it should be easier for people to contact the police through digital media. They cite the top benefits of using digital media as being more convenient (48 percent of respondents), crimes would be reported faster (45 percent) and photos and video can be uploaded (43 percent). The biggest barriers to interacting with police in this way are concerns that messages might not reach the right person (41 percent) or that the technology might fail (38 percent). Millennials (18-34 years old) and Gen Xers (35-50 years) are more open to contacting police via digital channels than those aged 50+ years.  

Most Sydney-siders say they are willing to submit potential evidence via online channels to help law enforcement agencies combat crime – such as digital photos (78 percent), written information (67 percent) or video (61 percent). Fifty-seven percent said they were willing to use mobile devices to do so. However, there is low support (37 percent) to allow police to access their PC remotely to investigate hate crimes or online bullying. 

"The Unisys Safe Cities study shows that the public supports two-way interaction with law enforcement agencies via digital channels," said Tim Green, Unisys Asia Pacific Justice and Law Enforcement subject matter expert. "Australian state police forces and Department of Home Affairs agencies make good use of online channels to distribute information, but the community is keen to also submit information online, including photo and video evidence. The public wants to use the digital tools they have at their fingertips, such as smartphones. However, they also want to retain a degree of control over how and when they engage with law enforcement." 

Not all interactions with the police are the same

The public's willingness to use digital media to engage with police depends on the urgency and severity of the issue. The survey found digital communication is more acceptable for actions that are not time-critical such as receiving traffic alerts, requesting a police incident number or reporting suspicious behaviour. Whereas people prefer to call by phone for time-critical incidents such as reporting a crime in progress, domestic violence or a traffic accident. 

Similarly, the more severe a crime, the less likely it is to be reported online. While just over half of Sydney-siders would use an online interaction to report a stolen phone, suspicious behaviour or online identity theft, only just over a third would use online methods to report child abuse, physical assault or kidnapping. 

Public support for technology in policing and public safety varies

Of the 10 cities surveyed, Singapore and then Sydney recorded the highest level of trust in government using technology to prevent and investigate crime. Many cities are implementing Internet of Things (IOT) technology, such as sensors that automatically alert authorities to various changes or events, yet support for this technology to be used for law enforcement varies depending on how or why it is used. Eighty-one percent of Sydney-siders strongly support reactive measures such as sensors that detect the presence of emergency vehicles and change traffic signals to speed their passage, or detect harmful chemicals and set off alarms to route people away from harm, or register that a gun was fired and automatically notify police. A smaller majority (69 percent) support proactive surveillance such as police being equipped with facial recognition systems to identify persons of interest, or video surveillance systems that automatically identify suspicious activity and notify police. 

Similarly, support for 24-hour surveillance crime prevention measures varies. Surveillance at airports is ranked by Sydney-siders as by far the most important (with 63 percent supportive), followed by surveillance of public transport (37 percent), public streets (34 percent) and entertainment or sporting events (27 percent). Support for surveillance at public buildings, parks and religious buildings is much lower. When it comes to monitoring personal communication, approximately half of Sydney-siders support monitoring computers (50 percent) and social media (48 percent). Sydney was the only city in the survey to rank monitoring of personal computers as more important than monitoring social media.  

"As cities and individuals become more connected by technology, there is a huge opportunity to use these 'Smart Cities' capabilities to better engage the public in 'Safe Cities' public safety initiatives. It is essential police and government agencies use digital platforms to take community security to a new level. The benefits are numerous: improved and more responsive partnerships, more timely and appropriate service response and increased case clearance rates. However, public trust in governments and their police agencies ultimately defines the scope and types of capability that will be acceptable," explained Mr Green. 

Download the infographic of the Sydney and global results here.

To download the full Unisys Safe Cities Report go to www.unisys.com/safecities

About Unisys

Unisys is a global information technology company that specialises in providing industry-focused solutions integrated with leading-edge security to clients in the government, financial services and commercial markets. Unisys offerings include security solutions, advanced data analytics, cloud and infrastructure services, application services and application and server software. For more information, visit: www.unisys.com.  

About Unisys Asia Pacific

In Asia Pacific, Unisys delivers services and solutions to clients in more than 15 countries across the region. For more information visit: www.unisys.com.au. Follow us on twitter @UnisysAPAC, LinkedIn, and in China on: www.weibo.com/unisyschina and WeChat Official Account: Unisys China.

Contact:

Candi Hindocha, Impact Agency,
+61 2 9519 5411 or +61 459 104 978, candi@impactagency.com.au

Claire Hosegood, Unisys Asia Pacific,
+61 411 253 663, claire.hosegood@au.unisys.com