Police tech: How cops use IT to catch bad guys

Videos demonstrate high-tech gear police officers use to fight crime and promote public safety

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Negatives and darkrooms are things of the past, too, Studley says, which makes for more efficient operations and cuts down on the use of potentially dangerous chemicals.

Off. David Studley describes digital camera techniques used in crime scene investigations.

Studley still has an old bellows-type Speed Graphic camera at the station, but nowadays, he takes to crime scenes a Canon 10-megapixel digital camera with zoom lens and other accessories, including one that takes exact-scale fingerprint photos. An underwater camera is also available.

Crime analysis is another area in which the FPD uses high-tech tools.

Det. Ted Piers uses GIS mapping technology, databases and other information to visually plot crime patterns, identify problem areas or examine other factors in order to best allocate police resources.

On a more tactical level, Piers provides all the information he can to officers enroute to a potentially dangerous call.

"In the event of a SWAT team or ... they have high-risk entry, we incorporate [crime analysis data] with the mapping. We would [provide] a diagram of the building, including aerial shots, aerial photography -- whatever information we could get on the particular area," he says. "We provide that as much as we can to the units going to the location."

Det. Ted Piers explains how officers use geospatial data to chart crime hot spots, evaluate traffic enforcement efforts and identify other trends affecting the town.

He said the mapping can also be used for other purposes, such as officers looking for a lost person.

Piers uses a giant wall screen called a smartboard to display documents, maps and PowerPoint slides, all of which can incorporate on-screen drawings that can be printed out on large-format sheets of paper.

The smartboard, connecting to PCs through Bluetooth, can present a live map with different symbols indicating the location of current police and fire calls. By clicking on each symbol, Piers says, officers can drill down to view specific information about an incident.

For example, each month he prints out a report that graphically displays the numbers and types of traffic accidents in order to aid targeted enforcement and keep a watch on problem areas.

Burman says there's a lot more high-tech help the FPD would like to have, such as BlackBerrys for motorcycle officers so they could electronically send in their reports like patrol car drivers. But the funding isn't always there. "Sometimes you just punt," he says.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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