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Back to Archives | Back to May 2004 Contents 

Advances and Applications

Where do the good ideas come from?

In this column, we offer our readers the opportunity to learn about — and benefit from — some of the cutting-edge technologies being implemented by law enforcement colleagues around the world.

San Francisco Launches Crime Mapping System
The Omega Group announces that the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) has implemented Crime Mapping for Public Safety, also known as CrimeMAPS, a crime mapping system designed to produce computerized maps showing density, frequency, and patterns of all types of crime incidents.

CrimeMAPS incorporates the CrimeView suite of crime mapping software solutions from the Omega Group. The application, which runs on the ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) software platform ArcGIS, encompasses the entire enterprise of policing-planning and resource allocation, crime incident pattern and trend analysis, and a community interface.

CrimeMAPS is designed as a decentralized system for the day-to-day use of officers and district station command staff. It allows field officers to be self-reliant and to conduct their own analysis of recent incidents in their patrol sectors. The department has designated three to four officers at each station to serve as facilitators.

"No officer should be going out on patrol without having reviewed the crime mapping reports available to them," said Chief Heather Fong. CrimeMAPS reports enhance traditional reports, such as lists of license plates of stolen vehicles, with maps that show where and when those cars were taken. Furthermore, officers who have been off duty can easily query CrimeMAPS to find out what has been occurring in their patrol sectors during their absence.

CrimeMAPS is designed to remove crime trend analysis. Before CrimeMAPS, the San Francisco department's monitoring of crime incidents was largely based on reports made by officers and others. Relying on the perception of officers or on the assertiveness of one or two highly vocal neighborhood groups sometimes led to inefficient use of personnel.

With precautions in place to protect privacy and confidentiality, CrimeMAPS is available to the public on the Internet. As Chief Fong explained, citizens will be able to come to community meetings prepared to ask the SFPD what the department is doing about trends that the citizens have observed directly from their use of CrimeMAPS.

For more information, click here, and insert number 110 in the box on the Reader Service Number response service.

London Police Acquire Deployment Software
The Workbrain Corporation announces that the Metropolitan Police Service (the Met) of London, England, has selected Workbrain solutions to help centralize and optimize workforce deployment and management. Workbrain's industry-specific solutions will roll out to 25,000 uniformed officers and detectives, as well as civilian and temporary staff.

The Met sought a Web-based solution to replace legacy workforce management systems and paper-based processes that were limiting efficient workforce deployment. Workbrain solutions are designed to help the Met automate the particular workforce processes of the sector. Duty planning will be automated. Workbrain's integrated duty planning tool uses staff availability data, deployment templates, and other information to help duty sergeants deploy resources quickly and accurately. In addition, Workbrain will automate the Met's employee time tracking and pay calculations, including special events, court time, and overtime, to ensure accurate payroll.

"One of the reasons we selected Workbrain was its track record of managing the particular staffing challenges that face large police services," said Met Commander Bob Broadhurst. "By centralizing our duty planning, time tracking, and reporting onto the Workbrain platform, we aim to improve our staff deployment and increase visibility and accountability of staff activities. This will contribute to the Met's goal of making London the safest large city in the world."

The Met also expects to benefit from Workbrain's integrated reporting and workforce intelligence capabilities, which are designed to give supervisors greater visibility into officer activities and help to measure workforce performance. Using Workbrain reporting tools, staff sergeants can access detailed views of officer assignments, activities, and pay, as well as roll-up reports that monitor key metrics, such as payroll expenditure and workforce efficiency. Ultimately these improved reporting capabilities should provide the Met with better information about the performance of its workforce and improved public accountability.

For more information, click here, and insert number 111 in the box on the Reader Service Number response service.

Minnesota Agency Uses Remote Control Underwater Vehicle to Find Body
VideoRay announces that the Saint Louis County, Minnesota, Sheriff's Office and its volunteer rescue squad used its new nine-pound VideoRay ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to help authorities in Ashland, Wisconsin, recover the body of 44-year-old Tracy Schroeder, whose snowmobile plunged into Chequamegon Bay. Divers had previously made 19 difficult attempts in shifting ice to locate the victim. A Saint Louis County diver spent less than one minute in the 37-degree water recovering the body, just five hours after the search with the VideoRay began.

About a half-mile from shore, the toaster-oven-sized VideoRay was slipped through a hole in the ice. The body was found in 18 feet of water with the help of SeaSprite sonar that can navigate and see objects in poor-visibility conditions. When the video-equipped ROV encountered the body, the VideoRay's manipulator claw was clamped on an article of clothing to anchor it until the body could be removed. The recovery team cut the hole in the ice to remove the body after seeing the ROV's lights through the ice.

The VideoRay Pro II is equipped with a video eye that sends a live feed to a screen viewed by an operator on the dock or a boat. The SeaSprite sonar is used for locating targets as well as for navigation.

The Saint Louis County Sheriff's Office purchased the VideoRay Pro II through a homeland security grant. According to Saint Louis County Undersheriff Dave Phillips, the sheriff's office plans to use the VideoRay to search for and recover drowning victims and document underwater crime scenes. Phillips says the VideoRay was chosen for its affordability, portability, easy operation, and ability to operate in cold, dark waters.

"What our goal was when we acquired this [VideoRay] is to get the scuba divers out of the search business and get them into the recovery business," Phillips told the Duluth News Tribune. He said the recovery at Chequamegon Bay "was a simple matter of cutting a hole in the ice and going to where the victim was found by the ROV as opposed to spending time searching" and endangering divers.

For more information, click here, and insert number 112 in the box on the Reader Service Number response service.

Houston Port Authority Chooses Public safety Software
Each year, 6,600 vessels call at the port of Houston, which ranks first in the U.S. in foreign waterborne tonnage, second in overall total tonnage, and sixth largest in the world. To help ensure the security of the 25-mile-long complex of diversified public and private facilities, the Port of Houston Authority worked with BAE Systems to select Spillman Technologies' public safety software solutions to meet its information management needs, according to the company.

The Port of Houston Authority plays a vital role in ensuring the navigational safety along the Houston Ship Channel, which has been instrumental in Houston's development as a center for international trade. "We strive to protect one of the nation's largest ports from possible threats every day," said Russell Whitmarsh, manager of the Port of Houston Authority Police Department. "This will ensure added homeland security and protect the port, our neighbors, and our regional economy."

Funded by a homeland security grant, the new software package includes robust tools for records management, computer-aided dispatch, photo imaging, licenses and permits, and other administrative applications.

"The new technology will help us streamline our efforts and will complement our security strategy by providing added tools for document archival, retrieval and cross referencing," said Whitmarsh.

The port authority selected Spillman because of its reputation in the public safety industry. "We were looking for a turnkey software solution, backed by a reliable, stable company," said Whitmarsh. "Spillman's software solutions are easy-to-use yet sophisticated enough to meet our information management needs. The company also provides a partnership of support services and ongoing training."

For more information, click here, and insert number 113 in the box on the Reader Service Number response service.

Canadian Defense Agency to Buy Protective Vests
Pacific Safety Products Inc. announces the award of a contract for the provision of a fragmentation protective vest to the Canadian Department of National Defense.

The initial contract is for 35,000 fragmentation vests and vest components that will be manufactured at PSP's production facilities over a two-year period. After completion of the initial contract, the government will have the option to purchase up to 15,000 additional vests to bring the total contract amount to more than $27 million.

The PSP fragmentation protective vest is the Canadian Army's next generation of soft body armor. The vest is one component of the omnibus Clothe the Soldier project and is designed to provide wearers with fragmentation protection against grenades, mortar bombs, and artillery. The vest incorporates the use of lightweight and flexible aramid fibers to provide more protection and comfort for the Canadian soldier.

PSP was awarded the contract by Public Works and Government Services Canada.

For more information, click here, and insert number 114 in the box on the Reader Service Number response service.

OnStar Helps Police Nab FBI Suspect
What started as a typical call from an OnStar subscriber to report a stolen vehicle ended with the capture of one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives, according to a press release issued by OnStar. The case, involving Terrence K. Washington, was featured on the March 27 episode of television's "America's Most Wanted."

On March 7, OnStar subscriber Raiford Brown woke to find his 2004 Hummer H2 missing from the driveway of his home in Brentwood, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. Brown called the Williamson County Sheriff's Department to report the theft. After filing a police report, the sheriff's department called OnStar to assist in the recovery of the vehicle.

OnStar Advisor Lewis Baldwin answered the stolen vehicle call. After retrieving the necessary information from the subscriber and the police report, he began efforts to locate the vehicle. Within minutes, the advisor pinpointed the whereabouts of the vehicle, which had crossed the state line into Sharonville, Ohio.

Using global positioning satellite (GPS) and wireless cellular technologies, OnStar can assist the police by locating a vehicle even if it's moving. The advisor provided the sheriff's department with continuous updates as he monitored the movements of the stolen Hummer. The information was relayed to the local authorities in the jurisdiction in which the vehicle was located.

Local police found the vehicle in Sharonville, Ohio, and apprehended the suspect.

It wasn't until the suspect was in custody that police learned his true identity. Fingerprint information submitted to the FBI revealed that the suspect was in fact an escaped felon. Washington, who had originally given the arresting officers an alias, was awaiting trial on federal bank robbery charges when he escaped from a Louisiana jail in July 2003. He had been a fugitive ever since.

By helping law enforcement find subscribers' stolen vehicles, OnStar has helped police crack related crimes, including auto-theft rings, carjackings, and robberies.

OnStar responds to about 800 stolen vehicle location requests each month. Stolen vehicle location is just one of more than a dozen services available to the more than 2.5 million OnStar subscribers on the road today.

For more information, click here, and insert number 115 in the box on the Reader Service Number response service.


From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 5, May 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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