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Case Study: HP laptops assist the Azusa Police Department with its crime-reporting system

In Azusa, California, the bad guys had better watch out. Their local police have a high-tech advantage when it comes to apprehending criminals: a custom-designed crime-fighting computer system that field officers can access from their patrol cars.

HP laptops assist the Azusa Police Department with its crime-reporting system

In Azusa, California, the bad guys had better watch out. Their local police have a high-tech advantage when it comes to apprehending criminals: a custom-designed crime-fighting computer system that field officers can access from their patrol cars.

Using HP laptop computers that are mounted in patrol cars, the Azusa Police Department can now view suspects'' photos and crime records while in the patrol car, and even conduct on-the-spot line-ups. They can also fill out crime reports, transfer the reports to the main police department network, track the reports through the various departments, and receive detective case assignments.

A custom-made solution

This high-tech system is definitely a custom-made solution. The innovative crime-reporting software was developed by two Azusa Police Officers: Sergeant Sam Fleming and Officer Terry Henson. "While most law enforcement agencies have done a great job of using computer systems to make their departments more efficient," said Henson, "the front line patrol officer is often overlooked. This system can save patrol officers up to 50% of their time spent completing crime reports."

The seeds of this system were sown in 1994 when the Azusa Police Department implemented an internal digital photo-imaging system. When suspects were booked and photographed, the records and digitized photos were fed into a network computer. This allowed detectives to construct photo line-ups using the digital images.

In 1997, the department focused on bringing modern computer technology into the patrol car. Officers Fleming and Henson were asked to develop a crime-reporting system which would:

    1. Give field officers access to photo images from the patrol car.
    2. Use existing departmental crime report forms.
    3. Be capable of transferring the crime reports from the patrol car to the departmental network, and managing the reports through their routing from Watch Commander to Records Receiving and finally to Detective Case Assignment.
    4. Reduce the amount of time required by field offers to complete crime reports.
HP came through for us

"We looked into several options before deciding what hardware would be used for the system," said Sgt. Sam Fleming, one of the system designers. "We considered using mobile display terminals which transmitted data and photographs via radio frequency, as well as using rugged laptop computers with cellular modems.

"HP stepped in to help us with the project, letting us use several Armada 7770DMT laptops. We found we could use the Armada computers right out of the box with no modifications." The police department equipped five patrol cars with HP Armada laptops and proceeded with eight months of testing. "During the testing phase," noted Fleming, "we encountered some very minor problems. However all were traced back to software or user errors."

"First we put the Crime Report module onto the laptops, then added photo imaging," said Officer Henson. "Later came the system for transferring data from the laptop to the main network. The HP Armada 77770DMT handled each phase of the project with no problems."

Azusa Police Department patrol officers can now write all crime reports on their HP Armada laptops and electronically send the reports to the departmental network. Watch Commanders can review the reports at their desktop computers. If approved, the reports are sent to the Records Department. If corrections are needed, reports can be sent back to the patrol officers over the network. Once approved, the Detective Sergeant can read the reports at his desktop and assign the cases to detectives, all from his desktop computer.

The department''s Computer Services Manager, Lysell Wofford, is working on adding Computer Automated Dispatch and Records Management capabilities to the system. He is the person responsible for making all the components work together as one complete system.

"We''re doing things no other police department in the country is doing, and it''s paying off for our community," said Fleming.

The five patrol officers involved in the testing have all reported a decrease in the amount of time required to complete crime reports. The system also offers a full-featured database, so booking records and crime reports can be searched for relevant facts such as identifying features (height, weight, hair color, etc.).

The police find it especially helpful to use photo imaging in the field to confirm the identity of persons detained. Officers have at their fingertips more than 11,000 booking records and photographs - the records of all suspects booked since 1994. Photo line-ups can be conducted at the crime scene while witnesses'' memories are fresh.

At a crime scene in August, three suspects gave false identities in an attempt to avoid arrest. The photo imaging system enabled the police to learn their true identities and make the arrests.

Officer Steve Hunt, noted: "On my graveyard shift, other officers have been asking me to respond with my HP laptop so they can use it to assist in identifying persons detained." It seems that all the patrol officers want a HP laptop in their patrol cars.

Hazardous duty, even for laptops

Riding in a patrol car can be hazardous, even for computers. "One of the Armada computers received a substantial impact," Fleming reported. "This caused the hard drive to make some noise, but the unit kept on working and no data was lost. We called HP Technical Support and received a new hard drive overnight. The customer support we''ve received from HP has been outstanding. Any questions or problems we''ve had have been taken care of immediately."

Fleming continued, "One thing that impressed me about the support we got - the technical support people didn''t know that these computers belonged to HP and were evaluation units. We were just like any other customer to them, and they gave us excellent service. That impressed me. In fact, the service was so good, I went out and bought a brand new HP Presario for my personal use, and my partner in the project did the same thing."

Ready to expand the system

The mobile computing system has been so well received, the Azusa Police Department is now moving to implement the system throughout their patrol force, installing a HP laptop computer in every patrol car. Sgt. Fleming stressed, "I would personally like to thank Scott Weed of HP Government Sales, and Tracey Bishop of HP Procurement for all their assistance with this project. They''ve been a big part of making this project a success."

For more information on how working with HP can benefit you, visit us at: www.hp.com or call 1.888.202.GOV2


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