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Explore these feature stories to read about how agencies from across the United States help create safer communities when responding to calls for service.
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A Deadly Terrorist Attack: Lessons Learned
Discovering what makes someone become a mass murderer is something the science community has yet to identify. Many of these individuals share similar characteristics, but what makes someone actually commit these acts is hard to define.
Some of those characteristics include a feeling of rejection or an abusive past. Others include setting fires while young or hurting animals. Then there are some that always exhibited a lack of empathy or self-centeredness. But not everyone who experiences these traits or experiences becomes a killer.
Triggering events can sometimes be tied to those who enact a mass shooting. A workplace shooting can occur after an individual has been fired; a shooting in the household could be the result of a breakup.
Mass shootings are generally carried out by one individual. Incidences that involve two or more shooters leave even more questions about the reasons behind the shooting to be answered.
In the attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino in late 2015, nobody really knows what caused two individuals to kill 14 others.
What authorities do know is that the two shooters were a married couple. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik had left their baby in the care of a grandparent on the day of the attack. Farook was a U.S. citizen and Malik was a permanent resident. They met online initially, and eventually met face to face in Saudi Arabia when Farook came out for a visit.
Farook was a graduate of California State University and worked for the Inland Regional Center.
Together, the couple owned a Lexus, had recently attended a baby shower that coworkers had thrown for them, and seemed like an everyday family.
It is thought that Farook became self-radicalized and professed allegiance to the terrorist organization ISIS. It's unclear if the two shared ideological beliefs independently from each other, or if their ideologies grew once they got together.
While it's difficult to know what drove Farook and Malik to kill 14 individuals, it's important to know how they were identified and stopped.
According to Chief Jarrod Burguan of the San Bernardino Police Department, during the investigation that began as soon as law enforcement arrived on the scene, a witness to the shooting suggested that officers consider Farook as a suspect.
This tip was made based on the fact that Farook had been attending the training, but left at some point during and was no longer around. Farook's information was entered into the public safety records management software system utilized by the San Bernardino PD and officers were able to determine his address.
Another tip came in saying that the shooters had gotten away in a black SUV. When this information was made available to the public, a community member called 9-1-1 to report a suspicious SUV. That caller had gone so far as to memorize the license plate number of the SUV.
Investigators with the San Bernardino PD were able to use their public safety software yet again to look up this plate. From there, they determined that the SUV was a rental vehicle and that Farook had rented it.
When Farook and Malik were located not long afterwards, they were killed by police during a shootout.
This tragic incident serves as further evidence that although clues are not always prevalent before an attack, solving crimes and protecting the public is possible with a combination of data, technology and human instinct.
The United States averages one mass shooting per day.
A mass shooting is defined as an event that results in at least four people being injured or killed from gun violence, excluding the shooter. *While some gun-violence tracking agencies argue about the definition of a mass shooting (some do not include incidences where individuals are wounded and not killed), this blog includes any shooting where four or more individuals were injured or killed.
These shootings happen in areas all over the country, from densely populated cities to average-sized communities in middle America. They happen in churches, schools, office buildings, in the home, and in any number of places where people gather.
The shooters and victims include individuals of all backgrounds, socioeconomic classes, religions, races and political ideologies.
Even with the random chaos in which these shootings occur, some interesting statistics have emerged. According to Mass Shooting Tracker, all of the shootings that resulted in four or more dead from 2009 to mid-2015 showed the following:
What is interesting about the statistics involving mass shootings is that these incidents have not actually increased that dramatically since the '70s and '80s.
The perceived increase in prevalence stems from the intense 24-hour media coverage they receive and the widespread dissemination of news through the Internet.
Regardless of whether these shootings are becoming more frequent, those working in public safety are trained to handle situations involving an active shooter. This training highlights the lengths public safety personnel go to in order to protect and serve their communities.
This dedication to serving the public can be seen with both civilian staff members and sworn officers in agencies all throughout the country.
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