Wireless “Eye” Deters Crime
Police department sees crime drops after deploying a wireless camera network throughout the city.
Pennsylvania’s Bethlehem Police Department (BPD) is grappling with the same issues facing many public safety agencies: on-going crime, growing traffic and population—but a shrinking police force due to budgetary constraints. What’s more, the city has improved its parks and other public infrastructure and wanted to protect its investments from vandalism.
The department sought a creative way to supplement the existing police force and enable “virtual feet on the street.” It partnered with Let’s Think Wireless, and utilized Firetide Wireless infrastructure mesh nodes, Object Video analytics software, Bosch 500 series pan-tilt-zoom cameras, and Genetec enterprise-level video management to create a robust wireless camera network.
Since deploying the network, the department reports increased situational awareness. The fixed-wireless system supports 50 video cameras that can be moved and repositioned as the city’s public safety requirements evolve. Currently, more than 150 officers have access to the solution, with the technology to be available in all patrol vehicles eventually.
Now, dispatchers can not only communicate an event by radioing to the police vehicle responding, but can also notify personnel of the event in full detail prior to their arrival, with information such as where suspects are hiding and how to approach the incident—all of which improve officers’ effectiveness and safety.
At first, officers were apprehensive about the presence of the cameras and skeptical of their value as a crime-fighting tool, according to Jason Schiffer, commissioner of the BPD. “Over time, though, they have embraced their presence and accepted them as a valuable resource that can make them safer and help to solve crimes,” he adds.
“The cameras have added another layer of protection for our citizens and police officers,” states Schiffer. “Our dispatchers have been able to observe crimes in progress and send police units to apprehend suspects before anyone has called the police.” Overall, according to Schiffer, the wireless cameras “have become a force multiplier, enabling us to have a view of ongoing situations that we would not be able to have without them.”
Crime has been reduced in all areas where the wireless surveillance system has been deployed, partly because of officers’ ability to respond more quickly and efficiently, and partly because of the “word getting out” that areas are being monitored.
Speeding Up Search Queries
State police department deploys new technology that gives
officers the right information at their fingertips – in real time.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol in Jefferson City, Mo., implemented an enterprise-wide mobility system to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of officers conducting traffic stops. MSHP wanted to enhance operational awareness, which would increase efficiency and officer safety; reduce redundant form entry; and slash overall IT costs by moving from a legacy mainframe platform to industry standard Wintel servers.
MSHP selected the Public Safety Suite from FATPOT Technologies, xwaveCAD from xwave, and OpenFox Message Switching from CPI. According to Clifford Gronauer, CIO for MSHP, the applications were all COTS (custom-off-the-shelf). “Our intention was to do minimal customization, in order to keep long-term maintenance costs and issues low,” he explains. Next, the system went through an alpha (lab) and beta (field) test period, with tweaks and fixes implemented as needed. Rollout began in March 2011 and 1,100 of MSHP’s 2,500 employees currently use the mobile solution. Every user had to be completely retrained in the digital aspects of the day-to-day job.
How have things improved? Gronauer cites three different ways. Prior to the implementation, when an officer would conduct a traffic stop, the officer would dictate to a dispatcher, through a radio, the type of event, location, and vehicle plate number. The officer would also query the vehicle and driver through two different applications via manual entry of data, which returned most of the basic information. The officer would then confirm with the dispatcher through radio any necessary supplemental information that was not returned in the query.
With the new platform, all information is digitally distributed to dispatchers and officers. The search queries up to 14 disparate databases, yielding results in under 30 seconds.
What's more, in the past officers would need to manually complete a minimum of four reports. Now officers fill out a single worksheet, which can be auto-filled with the returned query data or by barcode-scanning a license or registration.
Signal Booster Slashes Commuting Time
Sheriff’s office solves spotty cellular connectivity by deploying signal boosters in patrol vehicles, keeping officers in the field where they belong and saving gas—and time—by not having to drive back as often to headquarters.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, headquartered in Prescott, Ariz., covers a lot of territory—8,100 square miles to be exact, almost as large as the whole state of New Jersey. The topography includes the Sonoran desert and mountains rising almost 8,000 feet. The size and geography of the county make it difficult to maintain reliable cellular service, which poses a public safety problem for emergency response personnel.
“We have a lot of territory to cover, including a lot of rural territory,” points out Lt. Brian Hunt, technical services bureau commander. “Deputies might have to respond to calls that are 20 to 100 miles away from the nearest substation or headquarters building. We wanted to provide traditional ‘four-wall’ resources to our units in the field in a more acceptable platform, so they could access them rapidly, in order to reduce response time and travel time.”
In looking for a solution, the department also sought products that were durable—given the extreme weather and road conditions—and cost-effective. It ended up creating the Mobile Data Computing Project, which included Panasonic C-F30 Toughbooks, Gamber-Johnson magnesium in-vehicle docks, Wilson Electronics DirectConnect 800/1600 mhz amplifiers, and NetMotion Wireless Mobility XE, a mobile VPN client.
The department began with beta field-testing with a small group of vehicles. Final implementation occurred in March 2010, with the technology now in over 100 patrol cars.
The project cost $750,000. Now sheriff’s office personnel spend less time commuting and more time proactively on patrol, since they don’t have to drive back to headquarters to fill out reports.
“Community feedback has been substantial,” reports Lt. Hunt. “We receive considerable feedback from community members that they are pleased with the increased presence. Because of the improved efficiency, we are now able to patrol areas more often with the same number of personnel.”