More Data, Better Policing

New overlay software is proving its worth as a wireless communications tool for law enforcement.

by / July 9, 2004
For police, running a license plate has taken on new meaning with the advent of Info-Cop software. Info-Cop is a wireless solution that allows police wireless access to multiple databases while in the field, and the ability to get information on a subject or vehicle much more quickly than before.

Info-Cop's compatibility with numerous wireless networks allows agencies nationwide to share information and gather information instantly from crime databases that were traditionally accessed only through a dispatcher. The combination of powerful software and secure, high-speed access to information allows officers to remove the guesswork from potentially dangerous situations.

In addition, the software gives officers the ability to investigate and search multiple sources, including the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), databases from the FBI and state and regional crime units, and motor vehicle department databases.

Not Just Running a Plate
"It gives us more advanced capability in running a license plate," said Steve Batchelor, patrolman for the Rutherford, N.J., Police Department. "The old system allowed us to run plates and registrations and so forth, but there was not a back end to it. There was no way we could review, at a later date, our stop. Now we're tracking motor vehicle stops for record purposes or production purposes or just for looking for somebody who may have been stopped in town."

With Info-Cop, police can retrace their steps months or years after a traffic stop, which is helpful when officers are called to testify in court. In the past, officers had to order an abstract of motor vehicle stops from a department of motor vehicles prior to a court date and then had to wait for the abstracts to be sent to them. Now officers can get detailed, to-the-second information about any vehicle stop instantly by accessing Info-Cop.

"We would have to get real specific with the department of motor vehicles about what we needed," Batchelor said. "In the interim, people were going the next day and renewing their registration, they were getting their vehicle inspected, and it would come down to 'he-said, she-said'."

Long Arm of the Law
The software gives officers the power of searching records databases, like the NCIC database, for clues on suspicious vehicles. Previously cops contacted dispatch to determine whether there was a warrant for a particular individual and had to rely on dispatch personnel to relay the information, which sometimes took 5 to 10 minutes.

Now officers can search that information themselves and receive information and photos in a couple of seconds.

The virtually platform-agnostic software allows officers to search many different databases and communicate with any agency or department in the country, so long as those agencies are connected to Info-Cop.

To locate a suspect, officers can perform random searches, such as for all white vehicles with license places containing the letter "K," and get a list of all vehicles with registered owners; or typing in six different license-plate numbers. Since every license plate ever run is logged in the system, officers can trace their steps back to an incident and isolate a specific time period as a point of reference in an investigation.

Names of suspects can be run as well, and in New Jersey, fingerprints will soon be run through the system. The software also allows for video images to be captured and stored, which is used in New Jersey as well.

"I've used it on investigations where the Drug Enforcement Administration seized drugs in a house, and they found electronic equipment stored in the basement," Batchelor said. "I ran some of the serial numbers through Info-Cop and got hits on stolen merchandise, which helped us apprehend that person on stolen goods."

The Rutherford Police Department has been using Info-Cop since the software's inception in 2001, and Batchelor said he has no knowledge of any security breaches in the system.

"It runs 128-bit encryption," he said. "Security is mandated by the State Police. Security is not an issue."

More Functionality
Police can use the system to communicate with each other in different ways, including using the summons, warnings and flags option. With this option, officers can "flag" a plate number. When another officer runs that number, whether randomly or for a violation, it will indicate the previous officers' flag and advise to hold the suspect for questioning.

"There's a lot of functionality, it's quick, it's graphically based and the touchscreen computers help a lot while officers are in the field," Batchelor said. "It makes our system more powerful and aides in everyday law enforcement."

To run Info-Cop software, an agency needs mobile computers or handheld devices, and the software also runs on cell phones. Info-Cop licenses cost $1,000 per application, and the Newark Police Department bought 100 licenses and a server for a total investment of $150,000.

The software is highly adaptable -- it can run over all the common public or private wireless networks, such as conventional radio frequencies and advanced 1xRTT, GPRS, 802.11 and CDPD networks.

"The nice thing about it is it works on any platform," said Peter Lutz, MIS director for the Newark Police Department, which implemented the software less than a year ago.

Info-Cop is being used in New Jersey, Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington, all of which are taking advantage of the heterogeneous wireless networks to communicate and access state, local and federal databases.

"These agencies see the tremendous benefits in the ability to access motor vehicle, warrant, summons or warning information from other Info-Cop subscribers, regardless of the wireless network deployed within those agencies," said Rich Picolli, CEO of Info-Cop. "Info-Cop is able to remove the technology hurdles slowing the adoption of a powerful unified crime and information database for all public-safety organizations."

The possibilities this type of software brings to the table in terms of interoperability among agencies and jurisdictions and between states across the country has some in law enforcement talking, and the value of the software should continue to grow as it is linked between more and more jurisdictions.