Millions of people every summer embark on a great American pastime — the road trip. As motorists travel the highways and byways on the way to the beach or mountains, they may encounter signs warning about photo or aerial speed enforcement. And some may return home to find an unwanted souvenir in the mail: a speeding ticket.
They may not know it, but technology has become a force multiplier in law enforcement. IP surveillance cameras stand watch in crime-prone areas of cities, and patrol cars are outfitted with computers and video recorders. And that's only the beginning, as you'll discover in this issue's special section, "The Future of Public Safety."
In Sarasota, Fla., for example, automatic license plate recognition systems scan up to 2,000 plates a minute; check the scans against databases of wanted vehicles or drivers; then alert officers when there's a match. Since deploying the plate reader technology in 2008, the Sarasota Police Department has amassed more than 1 million plate numbers and realized a substantial increase in tickets, arrests and revenues, says Officer John Lake. To learn more about ALPR in action, turn to "Speed Reading."
Some police officers are sporting a new accessory this season — the wearable body camera. These devices capture footage that can aid prosecutors and help stave off charges of misconduct. South Carolina's Anderson City Police Department rolled out 48 Vievu body cameras, says Jim Bolt, IT director and computer forensics investigator. See "Wear It Well" for details on how departments are using the cameras.
Other emerging technologies will eventually make our streets safer, including predictive analytics, next-generation 911 and drones, for example.
Tales of Tablets
Speaking of hitting the road, many organizations expedite efficiency in the field by outfitting workers with tablet computers. The New York City Department of Transportation replaced rugged tablet PCs with Asus tablet devices for street construction inspections. Chief Technology Officer Cordell Schachter says, "With these smaller non-PC tablets, people find it easier and more intuitive to work directly on the screen."
In Lancaster County, Pa., the Office of Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Early Intervention automated its paper processes in part by deploying Apple iPads to caseworkers. "This is about saving money and generating revenue," says Jen Koppel, the deputy director of administration for the agency. Go here for more tablet deployment success stories.