Fighting Crime with Mobility

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — September 19, 2013

Ask any police officer in the field if he or she enjoys paperwork, and the answer is likely to be a resounding no. That aspect is a big part of the job however. And when the officer is unable to connect to the central database due to wireless problems, it makes an unappealing task even worse —especially when it takes time away from the officer’s primary duty: protecting and serving the public.

The St. Paul Police Department has a large constituency to serve: more than 280,000 residents in a densely populated area of Minnesota, the state’s capital. With 800 employees in three divisions, (Major Crimes, Operations and Administration/Support Services), the department handles more than 200,000 calls annually.

A problem became apparent when officers repeatedly experienced dropped wireless connections. Trying to connect to dispatch or obtain information on suspects was becoming time consuming and frustrating to those just trying to do their jobs. Initially, the IT department thought the dropped connected stemmed from hardware problems. After replacing modems to no avail, IT realized it was really a cellular visibility issue.

“We wanted to know once and for all what was causing the rise in officer help desk tickets,” said Glen Pettit, InfoTech 5, St. Paul Police. “Whether it was user error or a technology or carrier problem, we just wanted to know what to fix and move on.”

After a review, the St. Paul Police chose NetMotion Wireless’ Locality solution to monitor cellular network performance management. The Locality management tool, which works on Android and Windows, (with support for iOS coming in Q4 this year) is designed for all verticals that have employees in the field. 

Because Locality provides the user with a visual coverage map, IT is now able to see where coverage is strong and where it is simply non-existent, and categorized by carrier. A timeline also shows when the end user had coverage  for the entire workday.

In addition, a device map can be used for one particular worker or just one device, so IT can determine signal qualities along the route. The solution makes it easier for personnel to troubleshoot and adjust. If a wireless card is not in use, for example, it can be assigned to someone who needs it.

The Result
Equipped with detailed coverage maps, the department was able to confront its wireless carrier about all the dropped connections. When the provider was unable to improve its service, St. Paul Police moved on; it chose a competitor instead. Officers have reported increased productivity as the coverage areas improved.

Time has also been saved with a decrease in IT support. Going forward, deployments may be possible for fire and medical services, which are managed in the same department. “Beyond verifying what technology needs to be improved, we are now prepared to track the increased number of devices, users, firmware and more,” said Pettit.
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