Edmonton police launch data system to fight crime, improve public safety
'I believe today we have found the game changer', police chief says
Edmonton's police chief launched a new tool on Tuesday he says will help fight crime and improve public safety.
"With police calls for service on the rise ... we need to change our approach in some of these areas," McFee said. "I believe today we have found the game changer."
The Community Solutions Accelerator is modelled on business applications that combine pulled together data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve complex problems.
The accelerator will focus on challenges affecting Edmonton such as crime, addictions, homelessness and mental health.
Most of the data is already available, McFee said.
"What we need to do is analyze that data, get the community involved and figure out what it is that we're trying to solve," he said.
In 2019, Edmonton police responded to 7,636 mental health calls, McFee said.
Of those, 3,435 — or 45 per cent — turned into events.
There were 160,789 Level 4 and Level 5 calls. These less serious calls, involving the "most vulnerable population" account for 93 percent of the total call volume, he said.
"Let's think differently. Let's use what we have for expertise to figure out what we're trying to solve."
No other organization or municipality has taken data from different sources — social services, child welfare, health care, law enforcement — and had people from the outside look at it differently, said Ashif Mawji, chair of the Edmonton Police Foundation.
The data will be secure, meeting privacy and ethical guidelines, he said.
"It may or may not work but innovation is based on experimentation," Mawji said.
The data is intended to create a roadmap for change with solutions benefiting the safety and well-being of Edmontonians.
It is a human-centred and holistic approach to policing and community safety and will be evaluated on how its solutions mitigate harm to individuals and reduce criminal activity, McFee said.
"We're talking about safety issues here. We have to do it properly and we have to do it right," he said.
The system could potentially be used in other communities across the country and around the world, he said.