Police, reporters and city officials huddled around a screen as dots and symbols appeared over a digital map of Baton Rouge representing officers’ movement and reports of crime and traffic crashes as they happened.
During a Thursday morning press conference, officers and mappers showed off their new technology, which combines the parish’s geographical information system and dispatch logs.
The result is a bird’s eye view of Baton Rouge that updates with every traffic jam, 911 call and weather event. Police said the new technology will help supervisors better direct their officers on the ground and marshal resources during a disaster.
As it evolves, the system may eventually be able to sync with officers’ body cameras and help detectives solve crimes.
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Sgt. Neal Noel and GIS Manager Warren Kron pulled up a simulated emergency — an overturned tanker truck on Interstate 10. The map showed road blockades, detour routes, a medical station and first responder rallying point. If a nearby school or hospital needed to be evacuated, police could click on the campus and their emergency contact information would pop up. The map also has other data, like residential populations, utilities and weather conditions.
The system will also help plan for parades, sporting events and other big, but non-emergency, events. In those cases, the maps can be manipulated to show amenities like generators, first-aid stations and handicap-accessible areas.
Officers in the field can also refer to the maps on their mobile devices or on-board computers so everyone stays on the same page, Noel said.
Supervisors can see each officers’ status and location, allowing them to direct cruisers to areas that may need some extra backup and make sure their employees are doing what they’re supposed to. At present, about half the force can be tracked with GPS, and the police department hopes to be able to keep tabs on all officers by next summer by buying new radio equipment that uses GPS technology, Noel said.
Right now, city police are in the pilot stage of the program officially known as the Baton Rouge Public Safety Common Operational Platform, or PSCOP. City staff spent more than a year developing the platform, Information Technologies Director Eric Romero said.
Police can pull up fire and EMS data, though firefighters and paramedics aren’t using the tool yet. Romero hopes to bring them on board in the next few months after officers iron out any kinks. Noel said he expects everyone in his department to be comfortable with the platform at least in time for football season when they’ll need to keep tabs on large gameday crowds.
Police also want to make improvements to the system that will help investigations.
Currently, officers can view the past 96 hours of data, which Police Chief Carl Dabadie said will help them identify recent trends “to react and stop crimes before they happen” by sending officers to high-crime areas.
Noel said he’d like to let detectives add more types of data from their investigations so they could search, for example, the modus operandi for all vehicle burglaries to see if the same suspect is likely to be responsible for multiple car break-ins.
In the future, it may also be possible for supervisors to sync the platform with officers’ body cameras, said Lt. Jonny Dunnam. Users could click on a unit and see what the officer is looking at in more or less real-time.
The department does not plan to allow the public to view the live map, Dunnam said. Officers could be put in danger by broadcasting their position, he continued. However, much of the data in the base maps is available at gis.brla.gov.
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