Located just around 30 miles off the coast of Texas, between Houston and the Louisiana border, the neighboring communities of Nederland and Port Neches are so close together that it is often difficult to tell where one city ends and the other begins. The proximity between the two communities along with a third nearby city allowed for a unique partnership to form between local law enforcement. In these communities, local agencies rely on each other for basic services, including police dispatch.
Because all three municipalities are all utilizing the same computer aided dispatch (CAD) software, information flows seamlessly between each of the jurisdictions, according to Nederland Police Chief Darrell Bush.
This connection became a critical component of the police departments' response during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
In just five days, the Nederland broke national records after 64.58 inches of rain drenched the community — 31.38 inches of which came down in a single day. Port Neches wasn't too far behind, receiving 64.51 inches of rainfall during the same time frame.
Despite the historic rainfall and unprecedented flooding, officers were able to reach the people in need of rescue — regardless of jurisdiction.
"I'll tell you that in a situation like that, you have manuals to go by and you have protocol, but the bottom line is that the actual situation is going to be different, and there is really no way to be proactive except to make sure that the software you're using and any equipment you are going to depend on is good and reliable," Bush said.
Operators in a centralized location were able to coordinate rescue efforts between police departments and dispatch the closest officer to the person in need. While physical barriers blocking roads generally kept officers in their respective jurisdictions, the intercommunity partnership prevented duplicated search and rescue efforts so that nearly 200 lives were saved in a timely manner.
When an officer issues a citation, it's a routine procedure in most instances. The officer checks the driver's license, fills out appropriate information and then provides the driver with the citation. The officer leaves and, in many cases, the ticketed driver pays the citation fee and life goes on.
But sometimes, the citation is issued to the wrong individual.
According to court services director Steven Cherry of the Grand Prairie Municipal Court in Texas, there are individuals who dispute citations regularly saying they were victims of an identity thief.
In these instances, a citation was issued to an individual who was not even in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop.
"We used to get individuals coming in and saying that they were issued a citation that they should not have received," Cherry said. "Now when that happens, we can look through our system at the photo taken by our ticket reader device used by the officer and determine if the claim is true or not. When they are telling the truth, the photos help prove that they really weren't the ones on the hook for the ticket."
According to Cherry, in these instances, friends or family – and in some instances, strangers – are using a stolen driver's license, so the citation is issued to an undeserving individual. Luckily, police officers with the Grand Prairie PD use ticket readers with cameras, so photos of drivers and any other pertinent evidence or information can be taken when a citation is issued.
"Before we had a device capable of taking a photo of the individual receiving a ticket, we had no way of proving the claim," Cherry said. "But now, we can look right at the evidence and say, 'wow, you are correct.'"
With photos accompanying electronic citations, tickets issued in Grand Prairie are given to the appropriate individuals. That means if a ticket initially went to the wrong person due to driver's license theft, photos taken during the citation process ensure that the appropriate individual receives the citation.
"Prosecutors always praise us for taking the extra steps necessary to collect evidence," Cherry said.
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