In the past decade, mapping has come a long way for public safety agencies and helps first responders get to the scene faster and safer.
When the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Colorado upgraded to digital maps and did away with their paper maps, it helped improve routing and response times while also reducing crime and increasing officer safety.
According to Capt. Brad Heyden, Douglas County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state of Colorado. With that growth, it is important for the sheriff's office to maintain accurate geospatial information systems (GIS) data.
This GIS data helps dispatchers maintain up-to-date information regarding the county, which helps them send fast and accurate responses to calls for service. The Douglas County's Sheriff's Office utilizes the different map layers offered by the GIS capabilities in their computer aided dispatch (CAD) system to identify parcels and jurisdictions as well as retrieve premise history information and set up perimeters.
"Our GIS is so powerful and robust that even before a new construction project is complete, dispatchers have the building's address in our system," Heyden said. "In the past, having that information in our CAD system would have been impossible."
With these mapping capabilities, the sheriff's office is better able to make use of the data pulled from its public safety software system, specifically in terms of identifying areas in need of more patrol and detailing premise history.
Heyden explained that mapping areas with high calls for service helps CAD administrators and law enforcement officers increase patrol in specific locations, which helps to reduce calls for service in the area due to the presence of law enforcement.
The enhanced premise history capabilities are beneficial for first responders as they are aware of more information while on the scene. This information includes anything from prior contact with the individuals to known associates, specifics about the location including any hazards, drug history, and other details that could be dangerous for responders.
"Detailed premise history really helps make situations safer for first responders," Heyden said.
Spending more time on the road means law enforcement officers keep more criminals off the streets.
When officers have tools to use on the road, such as mobile data terminals (MDTs) – which are mobile computer aided dispatch terminals that allow first responders to communicate with dispatchers and each other from their vehicles - they can accomplish this goal more effectively.
In September 2015, a deputy with the Garfield County Sheriff's Office in Colorado caught two shooting suspects from a neighboring county. The deputy had received a "be on the lookout" (BOLO) alert for the suspects' vehicle through his MDT, so he was aware of the situation. Later that day, when the deputy was on the side of the road completing a report on a previous arrest, saw the suspects' vehicle drive by. He immediately entered the license plate number into his MDT and saw that the plate was expired, which gave the deputy cause to stop the vehicle.
Without the ability to run the plate from the road, the deputy would have had to communicate back and forth via radio with dispatchers to get the same information. While this practice is something all law enforcement officers have done in the past, technology helps to eliminate this step so that officers can access mission-critical information on the road without relying on radio transmissions with dispatch.
Similarly, without the ability to complete an arrest report or traffic citation on the road, law enforcement officers have to return to the office or station, which takes them off the road. In this particular instance, had the deputy been at the station and not on the road, it is possible the suspects would have gotten away.
The individuals in this case were subsequently prosecuted on the shooting charges and one is already serving time in prison for his involvement (the other individual is still in the court process).
Another deputy with the Garfield County Sheriff's Office used his MDT in a case involving a robbery. In this situation, a possible suspect was detained, but the suspect was not carrying any form of identification. The deputy who detained the suspect used his MDT to access an image from the suspect's prior mugshot for a positive identification.
Before using MDTs, deputies had to travel back to the station to receive mug shots or other images necessary for identification purposes. With MDTs, they are able to query with the software to search for and view images almost instantly. This helps deputies save time obtaining a positive identification while out on the field.
"Mobile capabilities greatly increase the overall effectiveness and efficiency of our deputies in the field" Garfield County Sheriff Office's Chief of Communications Andy Haffele said.
Officer safety is a vital element in an emergency response.
When dispatchers use a computer aided dispatch system with mobile capabilities, this functionality helps keep first responders safer.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Colorado has this functionality, which means they're able to send alerts to mobile data terminals (MDTs) in first responders' vehicles.
Mobile functionality helps first responders see all calls for service, employ self-dispatching tactics and update the status of the call. It also sends alerts, which helps first responders be aware of premise history information and prior interactions with subjects or previous location history.
This information sharing helps dispatchers and first responders stay better connected, which bolsters officer safety as they have more information at their fingertips.
"With this additional information, our dispatchers give first responders the information they need to respond safely and effectively to those in need," Capt. Brad Heyden of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said.
For instance, imagine a first responder heading out to a call for service regarding a domestic violence situation. If that first responder receives an alert from CAD regarding prior incident at the address of the call for service, he or she is better equipped with vital information. From there, the first responder could call for back up or make other decisions to keep all parties as safe as possible.
This capability is especially helpful for fire and EMS responders who may need to wait until law enforcement arrives on the scene. This is beneficial in situations where a call for service involves an individual being aggressive or in possession of a firearm.
"With this additional information, our dispatchers give first responders the information they need to know, which ultimately keeps officers and our communities safer," Heyden said.
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