By H. C. “Skip” Clark II, Chief, Peachtree City, Georgia, Police Department; and Lisa Blaney-Koen, IACP Consultant
he Peachtree City, Georgia, Police Department (PCPD) is this year’s National Law Enforcement Challenge (NLEC) Special Category winner in Technology. In addition, the agency placed third in the Municipal 46–75 Sworn Officers category. The PCPD deployed a variety of technologies to empower officers in the field, improve their productivity and effectiveness, and to support the department’s data-driven approach to decision making. As PCPD Chief H. C. “Skip” Clark II, a coauthor of this column, noted, “By effectively using available technology, we have been able to increase the amount of time that officers are out in the community.”
|The National Law Enforcement Challenge (NLEC) recognizes agencies that have made a significant difference in the communities they serve. Focusing on three traffic safety priorities—occupant protection, impaired driving, and speeding—the NLEC program also addresses other areas of topical importance—such as technology—when appropriate to address relevant innovative traffic safety concerns. Agencies that participate in this program recognize the important role they play in reducing the number of deaths and injuries that result from traffic crashes each year. Visit the National Law Enforcement Challenge website at www.theiacp.org/About/Awards/NationalLawEnforcementChallenge/tabid/345/Default.aspx to learn more about the program and how your agency can participate.|
The PCPD now has the ability to track how effective officers are in the performance of their duties as well as the ability to better track crime and collision trends. This has enabled the agency to use Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) to address problems with a higher rate of success.
Officers can maximize the amount of time they spend visible on the road by accomplishing all of the following remotely, without needing to come to the police department:
- Online scheduling
- Online daily activity reports
- Electronic reports and reviews
- Traffic enforcement and directed assignment calendar input and review
- Policy and training information updates and sign-off
- Online traffic complaint entry
- Supervisor notes on employees, where employees can also submit notes about themselves and about other employees
- Extra duty job sign-up and tracking
In-Car Cameras. Another huge benefit has been having reliable digital video cameras in every vehicle. The PCPD’s present digital system allows individuals to upload videos automatically. Additionally, these files are organized automatically based on their type and the desired length of retention. This type of system never requires the officer to replace videotapes or wait for a hard drive to download. Attorneys routinely set up pretrial conferences and can see the actual event on video prior to trial, which has resulted in an increase in plea arrangements.
Visual Message Board. In addition, a visual message board has been an essential tool for placing traffic safety messages in high-visibility locations where there is a need. An example of this is placing the message system in a frequent collision corridor where following-too-closely collisions have been a documented problem. In this case, the board would display a series of messages warning drivers of the frequent collision area and reminding them to follow at a safe distance.
Web-based Training System and Wireless Access. An online training system allows for items needing officer attention—updated policies, general orders, and other information—to be uploaded and viewed from patrol laptops. The software tracks how long an officer takes to read an item and requires the use of an electronic signature to acknowledge the material has been understood. All PCPD vehicles are equipped with laptops with wireless Internet access, allowing officers to check police department emails and assignments, receive be-on-the-lookout notices, and communicate information from the previous shift. The result—officers spend less time at the police department and more time in patrol vehicles, which creates increased officer visibility.
Speed Measurement Devices. Three selfcontained speed-monitoring devices play a role in informing the PCPD of traffic trends while also providing an educational platform to share safety information with the public.
|Insights for Other Agencies|
- Consider everything that would bring an officer into the police department, and then make all of these things wirelessly accessible from the patrol vehicle. The increased efficiency reduces time at the police department while increasing officer visibility.
- Monitor the ever-expanding list of new technologies to increase productivity and effectiveness. Using technology at every point in the process can improve traffic safety.
- Leverage existing resources. If you have not ventured into a data-driven system, do not be discouraged by hightech approaches. You can do it with commonplace software, such as Microsoft Excel.
- A portable monitoring device records traffic volume and speed. It is used to validate residential speed complaints and to gather data for larger speed studies.
- A trailer with a radar unit and light-emitting diode (LED) board displays the speed of passing cars. It is used strategically in areas with identified speed issues.
- A speed-monitoring trailer with a variable message sign, which features a programmable LED board and built-in radar, is deployed in areas of high collision frequency, is programmed to display safety reminders.
Enforcement and Protection
Collision Trend Tracking. Violation and collision data are filtered by database-querying software and then exported into Microsoft Excel, where statistics are made into easy-to-read charts. Using this technology has minimized the time spent in epidemiological duties while providing more efficiently communicated information than that which is accomplished through pin-andcorkboard procedures.
Online Traffic Complaint System. An easy-to-use online form allows citizens to report traffic issues, and the web-based technology has increased communication between the community and the PCPD, leading to increased effectiveness in addressing traffic-related issues by streamlining the process. Since implementation, there has been a 150 percent increase in the number of traffic complaints received from the community, raising officer awareness of actual and perceived problems. The system also helps the PCPD keep accurate records of traffic complaint statistics.
|The PCPD uses a data-driven approach to enforcement, which allows for quick reaction to emerging trends.|
Mobile Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) Terminals. Each patrol car is equipped with a laptop installed with GCIC software that enables officers to perform immediate checks of vehicle tags and driver’s licenses, as well as stolen article searches. This technology has drastically decreased the time necessary for GCIC returns to come back from dispatch, while increasing the number of vehicle violations uncovered.
Peachtree City has the lowest class-B crime rate of any city in Georgia, despite having the lowest officer-to-citizen ratio. It also has impressively low crash rates, low injury-from-crash rates, low ratio of speed- or alcohol- related injuries from crashes, and high seat belt use. The PCPD attributes these impressive results to high voluntary compliance because of high-visibility enforcement, which is accomplished by the use of advanced technologies.
“We have seen an increase in officer productivity by decreasing the amount of time officers spend on administrative duties and on having to go back and forth to the police department,” said Chief Clark. “Increased efficiency means more time for officers to be visible in the community, allowing them to focus on other areas, such as traffic enforcement and deterrence.” ■
|Community Makeup. Located just south of Atlanta, Peachtree City has more than 35,000 residents and spans 24 square miles. The PCPD patrols both normal roadways and more than 100 miles of recreational paths, which are frequented by pedestrians, cyclists, and motorized carts.|
Partners in Technology. The PCPD works closely with the Peachtree City Engineering Department, the Peachtree City Public Works Department, the Georgia Department of Transportation, and local media.
Please cite as:
H. C. “Skip” Clark II and Lisa Blaney-Koen, "How Technology Contributes to Law Enforcement Efficiency and Effectiveness," Technology Talk, The Police Chief 78 (December 2011): 9899.