2011-02-16 / Front Page

DAM good system for cops

by Eric Levine Editor


Deputy Sheriff Matt Armstrong checks information on the touch-screen laptop in his patrol car. (Photo by Eric Levine) Deputy Sheriff Matt Armstrong checks information on the touch-screen laptop in his patrol car. (Photo by Eric Levine) There were 33,330 calls to Central Dispatch in 2010 that required responses from law enforcement, everything from abandoned vehicles and allergic reactions to criminal sexual conduct and weapons offenses. When and where did they occur? Is there a pattern?

What are the busiest booking periods in the jail? What can police expect when they respond to a call?

Two grants awarded to the Sanilac County Sheriff Department are providing the technology to answer these and other questions, and to provide valuable information for road patrol deputies, corrections officers in the jail, and some local police departments.

Data Analysis and Mapping- D.A.M. - is the system purchased through federal stimulus grants. The sheriff department received $223,000 for jail management, and $566,647 for law enforcement information sharing. The money bought hardware and software for the system, along with the training to use them.

“Only three of these grants were given (in Michigan) and we received two,” said Sheriff Garry Biniecki, who credited his undersheriff, Brad Roff, with writing the successful applications.

Deputy Sheriff Matt Armstrong, a road patrol officer, knows the value of the system.

Armstrong has one of the 40 laptop computers that are now in police cars in the sheriff department and participating departments in Deckerville, Lexington, Peck and Sandusky.

With the touch-screen laptop, Armstrong can get the information he needs for traffic stops or complaint calls, without going through Central Dispatch. H can run license plates and drivers’ licenses. When he responds to a domestic violence call and the identified suspect has fled, he can run the name for vehicle information and home address. Armstrong can also check arrest warrants, sex offender status, and any other information stored in Central Dispatch or statewide.

Armstrong, and other officers that have D.A.M. laptops, can also obtain the history of complaints for any address that he’s dispatched to. He can enter the address in his computer, and learn if there have been domestic violence, illegal drugs, weapons, mental illness incidents, etc. at the residence. He can also learn if there are officer safety alerts.

When he’s finished with the complaint, Armstrong is able to complete the report on the laptop and forward it to his supervisor in the sheriff department.

Whether he’s in Melvin in the southern part of the county, or Minden City in the north, he can wrap up the report from his car, so he doesn’t have to drive to the department in Sandusky.

“It’s very efficient,” said Armstrong. It keeps “police officers on the road, where we need to be for the public.”

Jail Administrator Nick Romzek also knows the value of the new equipment. His corrections officers now carry hand-held scanners that are used to track prisoner movement through barcoded wristbands or identification cards.

For example, if an inmate’s lawyer were to claim his client didn’t get recreation time on a certain date, the staff could call up scanned information stored in the control room, showing the inmate’s location any time of day. Or, if the prisoner takes medication, the dates and times of when it’s dispensed are also scanned.

“We can show a computer print-out. It’s a liability tool,” said Romzek.

Scanners are also used by detectives to keep track of evidence in criminal investigations. Thanks to D.A.M., detectives have a computerized chain of evidence from the crime scene, to the evidence room, to the crime lab, to court trials, and final disposition.

Because the new software was purchased from the same vendor the department has used since 1990, all the data over the past 21 years is now in the new system.

From criminal cases and traffic accidents, to booking in the jail, there’s a wealth of information available.

For example, officers can call up data on larcenies countywide, then zero in on a particular city, village or township, or a single business or residential address, the system will cough up times, dates, locations, etc.

“If you want to know it, it will generate it,” said the sheriff.

D.A.M. is a crime-solving tool, because if there are patterns or trends, they’ll show up in the mapping analysis. Officers can obtain information gathered today, last year, or anytime in the past two decades.

The historical data can also help better manage manpower. Romzek can find out the busiest booking times, and re-align staff. Biniecki and his law enforcement supervisors can adjust road patrols if D.A.M. shows a pattern of criminal activity, or a higher volume of traffic accidents at certain intersections.

Who else can profit from D.A.M.? A township board that wants the state to install a traffic light at a rural intersection can get historical data on motor vehicle crashes to support their claims that the light is necessary.

Sheriff Biniecki noticed some dead deer on the road recently, and asked the computer for information on cardeer accidents. He was surprised at the D.A.M. answer - there had been 33 accidents over an eight-day period, which is a high number for winter.

“I need to do a public service announcement” to warn motorists, Biniecki said.

“It’ll change the way we do business around here,” said the sheriff about the new system.

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