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When a 9-1-1 call for service comes in to a communication center, first responders move quickly to provide the necessary help.

For instance, when a robbery is reported to 911, dispatchers use computer aided dispatch (CAD) software to send available units to the scene. Naturally, if officers arrive quickly enough, it is possible the robbery can be stopped or the officers can apprehend the suspects.

But getting to the scene or tailing suspects requires significant behind-the-scenes work.

Watch: Increasing Efficiency with the Greenbelt Police Department


Like most public safety agencies, the Greenbelt Police Department in Maryland utilizes mapping technologies to navigate and respond to calls for service. This means everyone from dispatchers in the communication center to officers on patrol have access to digital maps that show real-time information.

In the spring of 2016, a call came in to Greenbelt’s 911 dispatch center reporting suspects fleeing in a burglary. Dispatchers immediately sent officers to the scene.

According to Greenbelt’s CAD Manager Mike Dewey, in situations like this, automatic vehicle location (AVL) functionality in CAD software is a valuable mapping component.

With AVL, a global positioning system (GPS) is set up on an agency’s mobile server and configured so GPS data is sent to the mobile software located in an officer’s vehicle. This signal is also sent to other units within the agency and to dispatch, which allows for dispatchers and officers using their mobile devices to see where all units are on the digital map.

AVL technology sends constant latitude and longitude coordinates back to the CAD system so that the unit’s location is always known by the agency’s dispatchers.

Dewey said this information is especially beneficial in creating perimeters, which are formed anytime a situation arises in which suspects flee from a scene. If the suspects flee on foot, K9 units are used to track the direction in which the suspects traveled. If the suspects flee in a vehicle, aviation units attempt to locate the vehicle.

In both instances, the perimeters are created based on the direction of travel information gathered from the K9 or aviation units. The perimeters can be adjusted based on new information that comes in to officers or CAD. This helps to ensure that the suspects are caught.

Dewey said with AVL functionality in his public safety software, he can direct patrol units to specific areas to make sure there are no gaps in the perimeter.

“When we see holes in the perimeter using this technology, we’re able to send additional units to cover specific areas and plug any holes,” Dewey said. “It saves us time and helps our officers get to where they need to be.”

AVL technology also enables first responders to see where all other units are on a map in their mobile units along with continuously updated real-time estimated time of arrival (ETA) information.

Having this information helps reduce back and forth communication on the radio with location corrections, as this information can be seen by officers on the map in their mobile units.

As for the burglary in progress that units responded to earlier this year, when perimeter needs shifted and units needed to fill in gaps, this AVL technology helped do so quickly.

Dewey said that shifting perimeters during a search is easy to do by looking on the map in the CAD system, identifying where units are and directing those units where to go. Without this capability, a general call has to be made via radio to ask the unit to move in the projected path that the search is moving in, which increases the potential of leaving areas uncovered.

Greenbelt officers that responded to the burglary in progress earlier this year were able to arrest three individuals in connection with the burglary as they attempted to flee the area.

“This technology helps us to fight crime and better serve the community of Greenbelt,” Dewey said.

The Greenbelt Police Department is a Tyler Technologies client using New World computer aided dispatch, police records, mobile messaging, and field reporting software solutions.

To learn more about the technology involved in this story, read the Greenbelt Police Department case study.

Learn More About the Greenbelt Police Department.

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