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Sunday, Sep. 21, 2014

Software is aiding law enforcement

Thursday, February 15, 2007

BENTON -- The Scott County Sheriff Department's current software can make it hard to see the forest for the trees when it comes to crime statistics. That soon will change.

"We're actually in training right now working on this new system," said Sheriff Rick Walter. "We can do a lot more with it." The new software is slated to be in place in March.

When the current software was purchased, "it was probably the best system around," Walter said, "but it's time to change."

You can't fault the current software for not providing detail: it has 296 different categories ranging from 911 hangups to weapon discharges, from animal bites to missing persons.

The problem is not being able to see trends because statistics are spread out over so many categories.

For example, there are 11 categories for first degree burglary listed in the program and 15 types of second degree burglary. With the list being alphabetical, getting a total for traffic violations means sifting through seven pages of categories.

Walter said while the old software does provide a total for all reports generated -- 3,360 for 2006 as compared with 3,660 in 2005 -- even this number doesn't tell the whole story.

The department actually had 4,950 calls for service in 2006 and 4,669 in 2005, but not all calls result in a report.

Walter recalled, for example, that he personally responded to the second call of 2006 which was called in as a disturbance but is not one of the 89 disturbances that resulted in a report being generated.

"When I got there it turned out to be nothing, maybe just a verbal argument -- there was no reason to do a report," he said. "Nothing actually happened but it still tied me up for an hour or so."

Having limited personnel resources -- only eight road patrol deputies, one deputy assigned to serve civil processes and three investigators -- it is important to know how those resources are being used.

"I want to track and see how much time we're spending on calls, even if it doesn't generate a report," Walter said.

After going through the list and adding up categories, it appears the numbers for 2006 are very close to those recorded for 2005.

Deputies completed reports on 146 vehicle accidents last year and 136 in 2005. There were 164 assisting other agency reports in 2006 and 168 in 2005. A total of 25 methamphetamine-related crimes resulted in reports during 2006, down from 39 in 2005.

Walter said it appears the new software will track and display information in much more useful ways. "I think once we get it in place it's really going to be great," he said.

Additionally, the new software will include the ability to share information with other law enforcement agencies that also have the software, Walter noted.

The best part, Walter said, is that the new software will also be less costly than the old program.

He explained under the current software's rental agreement, the cost goes up with the number of calls handled.

"With the new system it doesn't matter how many we have," he said. "In the long run it will end up saving us money."