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In emergency situations, it's common for law enforcement officers and fire crews to respond to the same call for service.

While it may seem as though these entities perform widely different tasks, their roles are vital in numerous critical situations including responding to the same motor vehicle accident or any incident involving injuries.

Law enforcement officers handle securing the scene and issuing appropriate citations or making arrests, while fire crews tend to the wounded and reduce risk to the public via extinguishing fires and clearing roadways of debris after an accident.

However, it's just as common for these first responders to have no means of sharing information with one another beyond radio communication, especially when the responding agencies and departments utilize different public safety software systems.

But that's not the case for law enforcement officers and fire crews in Independence, Missouri.

Police and Fire Departments Respond to the Same Calls for Service

Independence is a part of the Kansas City metro area. Like many metro areas throughout the United States, there are pockets of crime in the community.

To combat and reduce this crime, officials with the Independence Police Dept. and Independence Fire Dept. work together.

"If there is a fire and the police department is on scene with fire crews, the fire department will share information especially about safety for them as well as safety concerns for the public," Joanna Whitt, records administrator for the Independence Police Department said. "The goal of the fire and police department is of course safety of not only our employees but the safety of the public and saving lives. Both departments have to work well together when we are on calls together."

Using Technological Tools to Improve Safety

While working together is nothing new in the world of public safety, what's unique about Independence is that the police and fire departments use the same public safety software system.

"Many agencies communicate via the radio and we certainly do a lot of that, but we're able to do so much more with the police department since we're on the same system," battalion chief Cindy Culp said.

For instance, officials with the police and fire departments utilized their data analysis capabilities to identify criminal trends and patterns occurring in or around the city's lower end hotels and motels. 

According to Culp, these areas experience frequent break ins, prostitution, vehicle damage, drug deals and overdoses, and thefts.

"Information like this helps command staff see the frequency and type of crime happening in an area," Independence PD's record administrator Joanna Whitt said. "With that information, they can identify trends and increase police presence, which helps reduce crime."

With this data analysis capability, when a call for service comes in pertaining to this area, it helps first responders have more insight into the situation by providing them with details such as premise history information which includes details on the buildings and individuals involved. This helps first responders stay safer on the scene as they are more equipped with knowledge of what to look for in the situation.

The police and fire departments also work together to reduce an influx of catalytic converter thefts from vehicles.

Catalytic converters are created with a valuable metal and are a part of a vehicle's exhaust system. Thieves in numerous areas, including the Kansas City metro area, steal these converters and trade them for cash in scrap yards. To steal the catalytic converters, most thieves saw them off and flee from the scene quickly.  

According to Whitt, by analyzing data about these thefts, command staff with the Independence PD increased patrol in areas identified by the data as high risk for the thefts. This contributed to a reduction in thefts and highlights the benefits of using data for intelligence led policing initiatives.

In addition, this information about a scene or individual is also available to fire crews as they respond to medical, fire or other emergency incidences. With additional details about a situation, first responders stay safer on the scene.

"When we have all of this information to share through dispatch, mobile devices or through our data analysis capabilities, it helps all departments to stay better informed no matter what they're responding to," Whitt said.

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