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Aurora, Ill., Police Call Technology a ‘Force Multiplier’

Aurora police leadership appeared before the Aurora City Council recently to give an update of how the technology is working, saying it has helped them strengthen the department.

(TNS) — Aurora has invested in a lot of public safety technology during the past several years, and police officials said recently it has improved their efficiency.

Aurora Police Chief Keith Cross and Deputy Assistant Chief Matt Thomas appeared before the Aurora City Council recently to give an update of how the technology is working.

They said the technology is helping strengthen the department's connection to the community, increasing awareness of situations in real time and helping the department develop more investigative leads.

The police officials also said the technology works as a "force multiplier" — doing functions that free up officers to handle more calls, in essence like having more officers on the job.

But Cross pointed out that the department still is requesting more officers in the 2024 budget, saying "we still want more officers."

He said there are officers off injured, more special events in the city and variables which is "why (overtime) is the way it is."

Thomas added the department is asking for a staff study to see where the department could better allocate its 318 sworn personnel in the future.

"It's a large city," Cross said.

Among the technology the officials reported on were Axon's My90, a survey tool that Aurora is one of the first area departments to use, but is being utilized by more and more departments. The City Council authorized the expenditure in the fall of 2022.

My90 allows the department more immediate feedback on its calls, immediately generating a survey after a call. Thomas said the while most of the surveys are positive about police response, the department is only getting back responses by about 7% of those who get the surveys.

"But they (Axon) are telling us 7% is a high number," Thomas said.

Higher technology in the department's transparency hub is allowing officers to see more in real time. Cross said with technology monitoring traffic safety better, it allows "more officers in the neighborhoods."

Axon also makes Community Request, which gives citizens an interactive way to upload videos and other evidence directly to the police.

Because of that, "we're taking in more evidence than we ever have," Thomas said. It has led to a $6,000 decrease in evidence material cost, he added.

The gunshot detection software, which the city added a couple of years ago, has led to police being able to locate more precisely where shots were fired. In many cases, the software lets police know where shots were fired that were likely not going to be reported at all.

Cross said almost 50% of the verified shootings from Shot Spotter were not reported.

The department has recovered more than 100 firearms during the past year, and "they are up as well due to the number of leads off technology," Cross said.

The City Council recently approved the Fusus technology, a software addition to the Police Critical Incident Intelligence Center that allows more coordination of video systems both within the department, and from businesses in the city.

The addition of Fusus is what gave officials at Chicago Premium Outlets mall the confidence to share its video information with the Aurora Police Department.

While the technology has been helpful, both police administrators said it does not replace the people at the department.

"The technology is only as good as the people using it," Thomas said.

© 2023 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.