Monday, June 24, 2013

Get the picture

Many readers of the Director's Desk are police officers and crime analysts. They aren't just local. I hear from them all the time from places like Anchorage, Tampa, Lexington, Seattle--basically all over the country and even internationally from time to time. I am also getting a growing number of visits from professionals in other public safety domains: fire, EMS, emergency management, and communications. Nothing pleases me more than to spark an idea, or help someone else in these fields.

This week, I've decided to use my blog to market what I hope will be a helpful tip to my colleagues. It will be old news to many, but I continue to believe many others have yet to get the picture. A Friday conversation with two executives from the firm Pictometry reinforced my belief that the field of public safety is not fully leveraging the power of oblique imagery. I've mentioned this technology in a few past posts, but my intention this week is to be much more descriptive about what it is, how to find it, and how it might be used in public safety.

What, you may ask, is oblique imagery?  It is aerial photography from an angle, as opposed to standard orthophotography, which is the view from directly overhead. Oblique images lend a perspective to the scene that is very valuable in public safety applications. Notice the differences in these two images of the most recognizable home in Nebraska, the first a standard orthophoto, the second an oblique view from Pictometry.

Lincoln police officers, dispatchers, and firefighters have access to oblique imagery in several ways.  We are a customer of Pictometry, a firm that is the leader in this type of imagery, so every few years, a fresh set of imagery is acquired.  Pictometery imagery is integrated into many of our GIS applications, such as the City's Public Safety GIS Viewer, NEARme, ORION Vela (the mapping component of our 911 software), CrimeView Dashboard, and (soon) FireView Dashboard.  We also have access to Pictometry Online, a web-based viewer with many tools for tasks such as searching, measuring, clipping, and exporting images.

Oblique imagery, however, is available to a very large percentage of public safety agencies, even if they are not direct customers of Pictometry.  As the week unfolds, I will explain how this imagery can be accessed, and give some specific examples of how it can be used to improve the safety of both police officers and firefighters.

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