Charleston has always been at the top of many favorable lists: top city in the U.S.; safest city to live in retirement; and top family vacation destination, to name a few.

And each year, the list the people of the city work hard to avoid joining is “most dangerous.”

The crime rate in Charleston has continued to fall over the past five years due in large part to the city’s focus on deploying the smartest strategies for improving public safety by reducing crime in the most efficient way.

With budgets and resources being stretched further, it will become more challenging for cities across the Carolinas to sustain this trend.

The continuing challenge for the police will be ensuring the right resources are applied to the right area and to take into account anomalies in factors like time of day or night, and even weather conditions.

As a resident of the greater Charleston community, I was happy to be part of a team working with the Charleston Police Department’s command staff to institute a new pilot program in the city that utilizes cutting-edge data technology to assist officers in ensuring they are getting the right information at the time they need it most.

Believe it or not, they already have access to all of this information. The challenge is that information is often locked away in virtual silos and isn’t easily shared. This technology gives them a holistic view of all the information, so they can make better and more informed decisions.

There is no proverbial silver bullet to create a safer city, but analytics technology is assisting law enforcement agencies globally to sort through the enormous amounts of information — part of the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data we create and consume every day — in attempting to remain ahead of crime.

Having access to all of that information is an invaluable resource for law enforcement agencies, but it can also be pretty paralyzing.

After all, only a fraction of the bits and bytes may actually be relevant. The challenge is identifying what is actionable.

I’m not going to tell you that this technology will stop all crime in Charleston or anywhere else in the world, but I’m confident it is helping law enforcement agencies make sense of these mountains of data.

And it helps to derive real insights to prevent crime.

I should be clear: This isn’t some technology that analyzes the human psyche.

Instead, it is serving our law enforcement community and reinforcing traditional police work to speed the process and act as a force multiplier.

It’s all about analyzing past events, recognizing trends and patterns and rooting out commonalities and correlations that were typically reserved for officers with years of experience and trusted instinct.

Today, used effectively, technology is making things work faster in making the key connections that would have taken days, weeks or months to uncover in the past.

This represents an interesting addition to policing practice and how our local government agencies are better able to react and respond to citizens’ needs. Residents deserve protection, businesses need it to operate safely, and protecting and preserving our historic landmarks are vital to ensuring that tourism flourishes as an essential part of the state’s economy.

The job is still about protecting the safety of the citizens and its officers that serve the community.

But today, it’s also about stopping crime before it occurs — to make our cities and state a little bit smarter and that much safer.

Gary Nestler, Ph.D., a local resident, is an IBM Public Safety and Security expert and has served the fire service and law enforcement community for more than 20 years.