In the futuristic film Minority Report, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, a special “pre-crime” police unit utilizes advanced technology at a fictional state-of-the-art police headquarters in the year 2054 to prevent deadly crimes.
While the film, directed by Steven Spielberg, features the improbable aid of three clairvoyant women submerged in a pool of water with sensors attached to their scalps to assist the police, its premise, nonetheless, resonated with moviegoers across the globe.
The movie was released in 2002, shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks and during the second intifada, around the same time the Israel Police built a futuristic crime lab of its own amid the millennia- old Jerusalem stone in the Old City.
Known as Mabat 2000, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Sunday the observation and intelligence center continues to be instrumental in both preventing crime and rapidly responding to terrorist attacks throughout the four quarters of the volatile Old City, especially during the last nine months of stabbing and ramming attacks that have plagued Jerusalem.
“There are 36 hi-tech touch screens there that constantly receive images from 320 CCTV cameras at the nine entrances to the Old City and in and around the Jewish Quarter, Christian Quarter, Armenian Quarter and Muslim Quarter,” Rosenfeld said.
The station is manned by 12 highly trained officers over three shifts, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week to provide a “strategic advantage” to the hundreds of officers on foot patrol throughout the labyrinth- like city with a population of some 35,000 residents.
“Our officers stationed inside the Old City will receive information online in real time as an incident occurs, whether it’s a terrorist attack or criminal matter,” Rosenfeld said. “They receive pictures of suspects to help them track them as the situation unfolds.
“The officers monitoring the city from Mabat 2000 are always watching for potential threats and know how to respond based on the intelligence that they receive [and] to be accurate in transferring that information to officers on the front lines who have to respond immediately at an exact location.”
Backup support is also immediately dispatched to the scene, based on the gravity of the crime taking place, Rosenfeld said.
During Jewish and Muslim holidays and other potentially volatile national events, four extra officers man Mabat 2000 to keep police on the ground abreast of any disturbances in key areas, he added.
The majority of terrorist attacks and other criminal-related incidents in the Old City have been recorded by the state-of-the-art surveillance, which Rosenfeld said has been particularly useful during the ongoing terrorism wave.
“Over the last several months, when several attacks have taken place, our officers have seen stabbing attacks taking place and immediately called backup units to respond,” he said. “The system is constantly recording, so if an incident is reported to police after 24 hours, police can backtrack and examine the CCTV footage to find the suspects.”
Moreover, Rosenfeld said Mabat 2000 prevents a large number of attempted attacks before they happen, although he did not have exact statistics.
Indeed, the observation and intelligence center is so effective that police and homeland- security delegations from around the world regularly visit the facility to learn how the Israel Police use the technology to fight terrorism and crime.
“Over the last few years there have been dozens of delegations and different organizations, from European security and law enforcement, homeland security and representatives from the [United] States, who have come and examined how the system works to learn how to use it overseas,” Rosenfeld said, adding that Mabat 2000 is wholly unique compared to other surveillance systems used by municipalities across the country.
“It’s the most advanced focused-security system that is being used by a security organization,” he said. “What is unique is that the information is transferred to our officers in real time and, therefore, saves time, which is incredibly valuable when there is a terrorist attack.
“The advantage here is that we can jump from camera to camera to track and follow someone who looks suspicious before they arrive [at the site of their planned attack], allowing our police officers to set up spot checks in the Old City, so our officers on the ground know ahead of time who they are looking for.”
“That’s how we have prevented a tremendous number of incidents from taking place, as well as keeping civilians and our officers safe,” Rosenfeld said. “In most cases, our officers can know ahead of time what an individual is wearing [and] what type of bag he is holding, which is critical on a tactical level on the ground.”
Noting that there are no police vehicles in the Old City due to its sinewy streets and alleyways, Rosenfeld emphasized that the 600 officers on duty during any given shift need every advantage they can get against the specter of an attack.
“Police are working on foot in over 1.2 square miles with 35,000 residents in a very intensive area,” he said.
Given Mabat 2000’s strategic importance, Rosenfeld said the technology it uses is updated regularly as advances in surveillance arise.
“Every year it only gets better and better,” he said.
Even without clairvoyants.