Mobile data terminals provide boost to law enforcementTechnology is helping local law enforcement improve efficiency at a minimal cost to local taxpayers. Five marked patrol vehicles in the Jamestown Police Department have been equipped with interfaced mobile data terminals for the past month, according to Chief Scott Edinger.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
Technology is helping local law enforcement improve efficiency at a minimal cost to local taxpayers.
Five marked patrol vehicles in the Jamestown Police Department have been equipped with interfaced mobile data terminals for the past month, according to Chief Scott Edinger.
“It creates a greater capacity for calls with the existing number of officers we have,” Edinger said.
The Jamestown Police Department has 29 total officers, with 22 patrol officers. The department has had 29 sworn officers since Edinger started in 1994, he said. According to the department’s 2011 annual report, calls for service jumped from 14,657 in 2009 to 15,836 in 2011. Edinger did not have earlier figures available.
“The calls keep going up every year so this should create more capacity for calls with the same amount of officers we have,” he said.
According to Edinger, a new officer would annually cost the city anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000. The yearly cost for the MDTs is about $7,200. The $7,200 includes monthly data charges and software upgrades.
“One of the things that the city of Jamestown is trying to do across the board is provide the best level of services that we can at the least amount of dollars,” said Mayor Katie Andersen, chair of the Jamestown Police & Fire Committee. “Being able to implement new technologies that make us more efficient is doing a good job without having to add personnel, which is a new cost to the city.”
Each vehicle has a laptop that is connected to the Internet via high speed wireless devices. Each laptop is also connected through the Internet via software to the dispatch center at the Law Enforcement Center.
If dispatch receives a report of cars speeding in a specific area, the information now directly comes to the officer on the MDT. The officer sees the information, connects with other patrol officers and heads to the area. Information from the dispatcher will also be at the officer’s fingertips.
“Now we can update calls, write reports, instant message each other; we can pull up maps and all kinds of things in the cars,” Edinger said.
One way efficiency is increased is that the officer who responds to the incident can write up the report in his or her vehicle and send it in directly. Before that the officer had to return to the station and write the report.
Officers now are on the street more often than before, when they had to fill out paperwork at their desks, Edinger said.
“It’s definitely more efficient,” he said. “It keeps the officers on the street quite a bit more than they were before.”
Officers will still come to the station to write up lengthy reports when needed.
“The officers definitely like this system a lot better,” Edinger said. “They have to keep less notes and they don’t have to keep all this paperwork with them.”
While MDTs make the job easier on officers, they also reduce the amount of work for the dispatchers.
A few kinks are left to be ironed out, Edinger said. But in the future officers will be able to print citations and warnings directly from their vehicles.
Patrol Officer Nick Hardy said the upgrade provides a boost to the service the police provide in Jamestown.
“It makes a big difference, we all love it and I’ve not heard one person who doesn’t love it,” Hardy said. “It’s something we’ve needed for a long time.”
The computers were purchased through North Dakota Department of Transportation grants. The software was purchased through federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grants.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol also has a similar system.
The Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office has been using the same MDTs for at least a year, according to Sheriff Chad Kaiser.
“It eliminates a lot of traffic between the officer and the dispatcher so things can get done much more quickly,” Kaiser said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at email@example.com