A new era in POLICING

Grant funding gives law enforcement the opportunity to cash in on groundbreaking technologies

     The CPIC is connected with other regional and national fusion centers, providing Chicago with a better means of interpreting threat levels and taking necessary action. All available technology and information is combined by the CPIC and gathered from crime reports, street cameras, plate recognition devices, drug and gang surveillance and traffic stops to provide investigators with instant, real-time information as they arrive on the scene.

     For example, an officer responding to a gang disturbance call will instantly receive information about the recent arrests made on the street, 911 calls within the last 30 days, names of those released on parole who reside in the area, registered sex offenders, stolen vehicle information, domestic violence incidents and confiscated weapons.

     David Sobczyk, commander of the Deployment Operations Center, considers this to be a new era in policing. "We like to refer to our intelligence gathering as pre-April 2007 and post-April 2007. That's how powerful CPIC is."

     Another intelligence-based application is the District Intelligence Bulletin System (DIBS), and provides an enforcement road map.

     Sobczyk views this tool as a predictor of gang and violence activity. "We can look at information about stolen vehicles, domestic violence calls or shots fired, and reliably predict where the next round of violence will occur," he says. "We then deploy units to the target area to be a deterrent or to be on scene as soon as possible after an incident."

Security from above
     When the cameras have flashing blue lights and display the Chicago police star, there is no mistaking: the area is under video surveillance.

     Another groundbreaking technology is visible on the light posts and rooftops of Chicago. Police Observation Devices (POD) are installed in high-crime areas and other areas identified as potential targets based on crime assessment and community input.

     According to Jonathan Lewin, commander of the Information Services Division of the Chicago PD, the idea for POD cameras came from officers within the department.

     "They came up with the concept and original design," Lewin says.

     He says multiple funding sources are used to support the POD cameras such as local, state and federal and including the City of Chicago corporate funding. Funds also come from narcotics seizures, asset forfeiture funds, purchases from the aldermanic funds, state legislative grants for school safety and federal Project Safe Neighborhoods funds.

     "The public's continuing and growing demand for cameras has inspired us to explore multiple funding sources to keep up with demand," Lewin says. "As the number of cameras deployed increases, so does their success."

     Lewin notes the Chicago PD has been specifically tracking POD-related arrests since February. Over 1,300 people have been arrested during tactical missions directly supported by PODs.

     "Many arrests are for narcotics-related activity, but offenders engaged in other crimes, ranging from aggravated battery to homicide, have been identified, arrested and prosecuted with assistance from PODs," Lewin says.

     Similarly, the Buffalo Grove, Illinios-based RMS Technology Solutions Inc. has gained national media attention for its version of the POD system, called PODSS, or Portable Overt Digital Surveillance System. This unique system has been attributed to a dramatic drop in violent crime in inner cities, typically associated with drug and gang activity.

     After seven months in use, the City of Chicago reported emergency calls dropped by more than 70 percent in the neighborhoods where PODSS were installed, and the rate of serious crime dropped 17 percent. The number of PODSS systems installed in Chicago will exceed 500 by the end of the year.

     "We've helped Chicago build out one of the most impressive wireless meshed networks in the world," says Rick Rubenstein, president and founder of RMS Technology Solutions Inc.

     Rubenstein says wireless PODSS cameras capture and record full-motion, high-resolution video and send it real-time to operation centers where police can dispatch officers to the scene. Officers on the street control the PODSS with a laptop and instantly respond to a crime.

     Rubenstein adds, "The beauty of this system is that it is truly portable. The PODSS can be quickly moved to new crime hot spots. You can't easily do that with a fixed wire system."

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