Halton police turn to satellite maps

Halton Regional Police Service is in the midst of rolling out satellite imagery capabilities to its fleet of cruisers so that officers will be able to improve their response times and accuracy when dispatched to an event.

As part of an ongoing project with Markham, Ont.-based DMTI Spatial Inc., HRPS, which is based in Oakville, Ont., has implemented 107 out of a total of 135 rugged mobile systems from L3 Communications into its cars. The units are equipped to handle the intense computing requirements of the digital mapping applications that are currently being run at HRPS’s dispatch centre.

DMTI’s solution includes a pinpoint addressing tool that gives the officer the exact location of the house or building as opposed to a 100-metre zone where the house or building could be. The entire DMTI solution, which includes a tool that tracks postal code databases called 6 Digit Postal Codes, costs HRPS approximately $100,000 per year.

“Most dispatch systems do dispatch based on zones whereas with the map can now dispatch based on proximity to the call,” said Warren Page, manager, technology and systems support, Halton Regional Police.

“(Dispatch) can hit a recommend button and can identify automatically which is the closest available vehicle,” added Deputy Chief Michael Kingston of HRPS.

DMTI began the project with HRPS last summer with a full roll out of the software to dispatch by the fall. John Fisher, CTO of DMTI, said there’s a growing trend for digital mapping and geopositioning technologies in police agencies across the country.

“Some of the emphasis has come out of things like 9/11 where it’s clear in significant situations that communication amongst all the people involved is really important,” said Fisher.

DMTI’s CanMap Route Logistics software gives HRPS monthly updates of geographical information including street, addresses and related data that is put into the system by officers and DMTI staff. DMTI has done similar implementations with other police forces including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto Police Service.

Page said HRPS decided to go with DMTI’s product because, unlike many Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) Software applications, DMTI’s mapping software isn’t proprietary to the CAD system.

“We used public commercially available software in all cases so that none of our software is reliant on proprietary apps, databases or development,” he said.

Instead of using paper maps to determine the location of an accident, officers using the in-car navigation capabilities will be able to map and coordinate with other officers in the field based on location and proximity to the incident.

“Mapping itself provides police agencies with a more visual presentation of the data and the information they do collect,” said Page. “Mapping is significant in crime analysis because it provides an intuitive representation of where the crime is occurring and how it’s occurring.”

Kingston added the mapping tool also allows officers to accurately identify where incidents are occurring.

“Mapping is good for the officers because they can find the call,” he said. “The analysts can find out where the crime patterns are occurring and the dispatchers can position vehicles for major calls.”

Likewise, Fisher said crime analysts can use the information in the database to determine patterns and links between different events.

“At a murder investigation they’re looking at all the different incidents that are potentially connected to the case and drawing linkages between them,” he said. “In pattern analysis they’re looking at a bunch of different crimes to see if there’s something to connect them or if there are particular areas that require more local policing.”

Fisher said one of the major issues with dispatch is knowing where to deploy what resources.

“When officers become involved in a particular situation, that alters the mix,” he said. “If you’re going into a situation that requires multiple officers like a domestic situation then you need to co-ordinate different types of officers.”

In that type of a situation, for example, the dispatch would need to send two regular officers plus a sergeant, Fisher added.

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