Safety initiatives in two Dutch cities

In light of our research about privacy management in smart cities, CESAM was asked to organize a meeting between safety officers from Amsterdam and Rotterdam to exchange their new big data plans and practices, and see if they could learn from each other. The meeting was part of a wider set of collaborations between local universities and the city (i.e. KWP, DARE, BOLD Cities), which have been established to share knowledge and explore future development pathways for smart city projects.

In Amsterdam, safety officers are developing a method that provides information about nuisances and crime on a more frequent basis than the yearly produced safety indexes. A team of data analysts collects data from both city-owned sources and citizen reports to produce various types of digital dashboards that are used for livability policies. Role-based access needs to ensure legitimate use of these dashboards by city officials. In a different project, an external organization helps the municipality exploring the possibilities of combining quantitative and qualitative data, including social network analysis and citizen reports, with the aim to eventually allow predictions about where nuisances will occur.

For the municipality of Rotterdam subversive crime has the priority. This is crime which is largely invisible, but detrimental to neighborhoods nonetheless, like white washing, recruitment of new forces among youngsters, and so on. By combining data from multiple sources Rotterdam’s city marines gain more complete pictures of the situations and neighborhoods they seek to intervene in. While this analysis is currently done by skillful officials, the intention is to eventually enable automation of these tasks with the help of technology. Another interesting initiative is the creation of a mobile application for officers on patrol that may relieve them from reporting tasks. By allowing direct registration of complaints and observations, as well as sharing these with colleagues in different locations, patrollers can coordinate their actions more efficiently and no longer need to fill out long forms at the end of their shifts.

Although these projects do not immediately remind us of the concept of smart cities, they do denote the new efforts of municipalities to make use of existing data for purposes of public safety management. With these emerging practices, new questions about data quality, responsible processing and privacy come to the fore, which is what we aim to further explore with our research.


The Centre of Excellence in Public Safety Management (CESAM) aims to promote and foster the professional development and management of public safety organisations, on an international level. It targets a clear and direct impact of academic research on public and private sector organisations in the field of public safety. More information about CESAM’s work can also be found in the CESAM blog.