Business challenge

When police officers pull over a vehicle, they often have no way of knowing the risks posed by its occupants. How could Rochester PD improve officers’ situational awareness and safety on patrols?

Transformation

Rochester PD developed a mobile app that puts powerful entity resolution capabilities into patrol officers’ hands, so they can be alerted to potential risks before they approach vehicles.

Results

5-10 seconds

for officers to be alerted to data that was once inaccessible to them

Improves

officer safety by providing awareness of previously unknown risks

Delivers

insight into vehicles, locations and persons and their connections to criminals

Business challenge story

Keeping officers safer on the streets

Every day, police officers stop thousands of vehicles on America’s roadways. To outsiders, these traffic stops may seem like a routine occurrence; but for patrol officers, they represent one of the most unpredictable and dangerous aspects of the job. When an officer pulls over a motorist, he or she typically has little warning of the potential risks of the situation.

“Mobile analytics helps officers take precautions to keep themselves and the public safe.”

— Captain Tim Heroff, Rochester Police Department

Captain Tim Heroff elaborates: “Most traffic stops result in a warning or simple citation, but in some cases, they can escalate into a serious confrontation. Our officers are trained for every eventuality, but we wanted a better way to protect them from the unknown.

“Often times the vehicle’s registered owner is the only thing we can identify based on the standard search tools available to most police departments. If we could give patrol teams a more detailed understanding of who might be present in a car, it would give them enhanced situational awareness to take appropriate enforcement action and take better precautions to protect themselves.”

Rochester PD has built up a vast store of information on criminal activity over the years. It takes advantage of IBM® Identity Insight solutions to dig deep into this data and establish a comprehensive picture of an individual, their associates and their activity. By using IBM technology to identify hidden connections and related activities, the Department gains a more holistic view of their prolific and serious offenders.

The Department saw huge potential in making this treasure trove of information—previously buried within several systems used by both the city and the county sheriff’s department—more readily available to officers on patrol, and providing an automated first warning of potential risk. By improving officers’ situational awareness without requiring them to change the way they perform their regular activities, this data would help officers better protect both themselves and the citizens they serve.

Transformation story

Powerful mobile app

Rochester PD developed a mobile app that runs on department-issued phones, which provides officers with easy access to key information. This includes the ability to search for vehicle, person- or location-specific information that can assist with intelligence-led policing efforts. The app is seamlessly integrated with the department’s existing IBM Analytics solutions, which are used to build up a comprehensive picture of known criminals and their networks.

In addition to providing proactive search capabilities, the app serves as an alert delivery platform for patrol officers who might be stopping a vehicle in violation of a traffic law, or responding to a call location. Here, the app automatically retrieves license plate, address and person information from active calls every five seconds—requiring no additional action from officers.

In real time, IBM Analytics solutions filter the search results to determine whether any of the individuals associated with the vehicle or address have been identified as prolific or serious offenders, have a history of violence, or whether they are on an active warrant or probation. If any of these conditions are met, the app sends an alert to the officer.

On average, it takes less than 10 seconds to deliver these alerts to the officer’s phone—typically before the officer leaves the patrol car to approach the vehicle or address—signaling the need for enhanced awareness and an informed response.

Results story

Reducing risk

The mobile app, supported by IBM Analytics, is transforming the way that patrol teams work. Typically, officers making a traffic stop would run the license plate to access information related to the registered owner of the vehicle. But what if the registered owner is not actually in the vehicle being stopped? If they wanted more details, they had to call dispatch, who would then ask a crime analyst to run a search. This was simply not a viable option for most traffic stops, as officers need to approach vehicles in a timely manner.

Today, RPD officers have access to a wealth of information on people, vehicles or locations, which goes beyond owner or renter data to include non-obvious connections that a vehicle, for example, might have had to previous crimes and criminals.

What’s more, these alerts can be delivered in near real time without the officer having to initiate a search on their own, allowing them to keep their focus on the scene in front of them. Armed with this new level of insight, officers can make smarter decisions in the field.

Captain Tim Heroff explains: “With an improved understanding of the potential risks associated with a vehicle, officers can adjust their approach strategy accordingly and try to minimize the chance of a situation escalating.

“For instance, using the mobile app, an officer might learn that a vehicle’s registered owner has been linked to several serious offenders in the past. If passengers are in the car, there could be reason to suspect that one of the passengers is potentially dangerous. As a result, an officer may choose to call and wait for backup instead of approaching the vehicle alone. This is something that patrol teams had no way of seeing before, and now they can access this kind of information in seconds.”

By putting vehicle- and location-related crime intelligence into the hands of officers on the streets, Rochester PD is empowering patrol teams with a new level of understanding and confidence.

Captain Tim Heroff concludes: “Information is one of the most powerful weapons that we have in the fight against crime. With our mobile app and IBM Analytics solutions, officers can better understand the environment that they are walking into, and take precautions to protect themselves in the event that a routine traffic stop or call for service turns into something more serious. Giving patrol officers this insight helps them make smart decisions that lead to better crime control and greater safety for officers and the public alike.”

About Rochester Police Department

The Rochester Police Department (Rochester PD) patrols approximately 37 square miles within Olmsted County, Minnesota, and employs 139 sworn police officers and 61 civilian staff to help ensure public safety.

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