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Atlantic City Closer to Upgrading Police Technology

Atlantic City took a crucial step toward upgrading its antiquated police technology Tuesday -- more than a year and a half after the CRDA granted it $3.5 million for the project.

Eight requests for qualifications were opened at the Purchasing Board meeting in an attempt to hire a consultant that will lead the rebuilding of the Police Department's technology, including a new records management system and a computer-aided dispatch, or CAD, which is how dispatchers log calls. A consultant is the first major expense from the grant awarded by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in September 2011.

"This is monumental for us," Public Safety Director Willie Glass said soon after the names of the eight companies were read at the meeting. "This is going to get the expert in this subject matter."

While Atlantic City has the highest crime rate in Atlantic County, it also has the least technology aiding its crime fighting. In February 2011, The Press of Atlantic City did a report showing how far behind its technology was compared to other departments. Not only were they unable to map crime, analyze data and detect trends electronically, but -- until a few months later -- there were not even computers in any of the patrol cars.

"I've seen very lean organizations," then-newly hired Technology Director Bernadette Kucharczuk said at the time. "But this is the leanest."

Because the system basically needs to be rebuilt from the bottom, public safety leaders have been adamant that they want to make sure the grant money is spent well.

Now, Kucharczuk and her staff will go over the submissions and then receive proposals for those who make the cut. After everything is gone over by Information and Technology along with the Police Department and Solicitor's Office, it will go up for vote before City Council. A time line has not been given.

"This is the process," Glass said. "This was one of the critical steps we needed to take."

What the consultant would cost also has not been determined.

The eight businesses include just one local company, Perfect Solutions Inc. in Northfield. The others were from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Cranbury, Middlesex County.

"It's been a long process just to get here," said acting Deputy Chief Bill Mazur, who has been the department's liaison for the project.

After the CRDA awarded the money, which had been promised for quite some time, it was eight more months before City Council accepted it as the city and CRDA worked out a memorandum of understanding for the spending.

In that time, just $17,000 of the money has been spent -- used for the tip411 system, which allows people to anonymously text police information, including having a two-way discussion. The system erases any identifying information to make sure the tipster remains anonymous. Anyone with information just texts tip411 (or 847411) and then begins their text with ACPD, so it goes to the right place.

While the public has been slow to trust the anonymity aspect, police have said some good tips have come through the system in the nearly nine months it has been live.

The city also signed an agreement with the IJIS Institute last year. The nonprofit group of information technology companies matches public agencies, such as the city, with the private sector to assist with information and technology sharing. It was originally called the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute, but now just goes by its initials.

There is no cost. IJIS also helps with acquiring grants, Mazur said.

They have reported to the city on what they observed and what they see is lacking. The city will send back revisions to that draft. The final report will then be made public

Copyright 2013 - The Press of Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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