WASHINGTON — Having safe cities is a first step to develop a nation economically, security experts said Wednesday as the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase announced a joint project that aims to help cities improve safety.
The project aims to “help cities around the world improve the physical safety of their citizens from various forms of violence,” Brookings said in a statement. It will identify different threats — terrorism, organized crime, narcotics trafficking and gangs, for example — that put cities and their development at risk and examine ways governments can tackle these issues.
JP Morgan Chase Senior Advisor Ray Odierno, a former Army chief of staff, said quick movements of information make it easier to pinpoint relationships between economic development and insecurity rates. He said the project will examine how different methods that combine technology and human resources can improve safety in large cities across the world and, as a result, improve global economies.
“Whether they be U.S. cities or international cities… in order to earn economic development there must be … peace,” Odierno said.
As an example of a country whose increased security resulted in economic benefits, Colombia Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzon said his country’s crime rate has dropped 70 percent from what it was 15 years ago because of an increase in police and judicial forces. This model, he said, combined with more global intelligence agencies and newer policing methods can help countries worldwide battle increasing crime rates.
Experts on the panel agreed, saying exponential growth in urban areas pose challenges to governments who balance developing economies and increasing crime rates. Michael O’Hanlon, co-director of Brookings Center for 21st Century Security, said though technology may allow closer and more accurate protection, it is no substitute to real policing by “cops on the street.”
“Automation, computerization and robotics may help but this is fundamentally a demanding problem of human resources and therefore is expensive,” he said.
O’Hanlon said the project would tackle issues of cost and the disconnect between local police forces, governments, international intelligence agencies and populations. As an example of this, Odierno said the U.S. spent a lot of money building security infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan but failed to gain the trust and approval of local governments and citizens.
“The people weren’t ready to accept that infrastructure,” he said. “So the money we invested ended up not actually feeding the population in such a way that it developed a relevant structure they can believe in.”