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Burgernet gets citizens involved in police work

Securing the future

Collaboration between municipalities, citizens and police supported by the right technology. This makes Burgernet or this type of citizen participation possible. In 2004, the Dutch government expressed their desire to get citizens more involved in their own safety and the security of their neighborhood. Burgernet is just what is needed today to protect citizens.

Burgernet is a citizens' network. One of its objectives is to support police investigations aimed at catching criminals in the act. On receiving a report of a burglary or a missing child, for example, the police control room operator can start a Burgernet alert. Burgernet participants receive a voice or a text message on their (mobile) telephone giving them a clear description of a specific person or vehicle and asking them to keep a look out. If a participating citizen sees the person or vehicle concerned, they call the free Burgernet number and are automatically put through to the control room. The operator then updates the police with the information. At the end of the Burgernet incident, all those taking part receive a message informing them of the results.

The challenge

In 2008 and 2009, nine Dutch municipalities successfully tested the pilot "Burgernet." Thanks to the efforts of Burgernet participants, suspects have been caught in the act by the police, missing persons traced and the police provided with useful information. In all pilot regions, an intensive form of cooperation has been established between the police, the municipality and participating citizens. Based on these positive findings, the Dutch Ministries of Home Affairs, Security and Justice have been advised to introduce Burgernet on a national scale.

Burgernet is now being rolled out nationwide. It has more than 1.5 million participants and the number is still growing. The number of "Burgernet actions" is also increasing, with an average of 1,700 actions recorded every month.

Our answer

In 2004, CGI translated the concept of Burgernet into a technical working solution. In close cooperation with the ICT organization of the Dutch Police and the Burgernet organization, an integral system is realized for participating citizens, police and municipalities. The system is part of the police control room, where operations can be started and followed in an efficient manner. We developed Burgernet technology in such a way that not only the police but other emergency services can also use it.

We have ensured that the participants can be involved through various channels. Previously, communication between citizens and the control room was possible only via a fixed telephone line. Now all parties benefit from the use of multimedia. Multimedia accelerates their interaction. The system runs in all control rooms and is easy to use. By using modern development-languages and methods, Burgernet is successfully established. Working in a criminal environment requires security guarantees and Burgernet meets stringent security requirements. Ensuring the safety of the police and protecting the data of the participants.

The system is managed by us and is technically housed in the secure data centre of the Dutch Police. We proactively maintain and introduce new functionality. Besides the technical realization and management of this system, we are closely involved in further developing citizen participation and Burgernet. We are part of the strategic steering group and work with police, municipalities and the Ministry to give direction on citizen participation. This contribution to the steering committee highlights the strong partnership between us and the Dutch Police.

A success story

Of the approximately 1,700 monthly Burgernet actions, an average of 10 percent directly leads to arrest of the accused, or to finding something lost. In addition, approximately 40 percent of the Burgernet actions are indirect but a valuable contribution to the investigation process. This shows that Burgernet contributes significantly to increasing the likelihood of "catching someone in the act." The Burgernet system is not only used for crime detection but also for informing citizens of security situations. On many fronts, Burgernet is a good example of cooperation between citizens, municipalities and police for security in the district.

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