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New technology to help state police track crime trends

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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Rocco Russo uses his vehicle based laptop while on his radio in Washington Township on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Rocco Russo uses his vehicle based laptop while on his radio in Washington Township on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.

State police say a $7 million technology upgrade that’s being phased in will allow troopers to get a better handle on where crime is more likely to happen based on crime reporting trends.

The upgraded computer system, which is expected to be fully functional next year, will help troopers perform their jobs more effectively, officials said. It also will help provide a level of safety by allowing troopers to receive better information, such as photographs, about suspects and individuals they detain.

“It will increase efficiency and enhance trooper safety,” said Cpl. Joe Koval, president of the State Troopers Association in Harrisburg.

The modernization happens at a time when concerns about police safety have intensified. There have been several deadly attacks against officers, including in Pennsylvania, amid mounting tensions nationwide over high-profile killings by police.

While the technology upgrade will help improve safety for troopers in their dealings with the public, there are other benefits for the agency and officers.

Troopers will get information about where crime will likely happen based on up-to-date crime reporting trends. Managers can then adjust assignments.

The system will allow troopers to more rapidly get information and do their jobs, state police Capt. Sean Georgia said.

A “problem-specific policing” database — which analyzes how and where crimes are happening — is a part of the system, he said.

The new records management system is already installed for noncriminal data, but the criminal data portion is being rolled out in phases. The records management system will track all contact between troopers and individuals — even in cases where there isn’t an arrest.

The system received a pilot test months ago by 115 troopers in five stations in the Hazleton area. Capt. David T. Dougalas said the “modernization was well received” and the troopers made suggestions to improve it.

The new system will allow troopers for the first time to file incident reports from their patrol cars without having to go to state police offices. It will improve safety because photos of suspects can be rapidly sent to troopers for their protection, Koval said.

“It will help to keep our men and women on the road longer,” he said.

Georgia said troopers will get four weeks of hands-on training.

At the Kiski Valley station, Sgt. Ryan Maher said the new records system will eliminate many paper reports.

“It will save money and time,” he said.

The new system will replace the state police’s first electronic records system, which was put into statewide use in 2005.

Police say it was the start of a computer-based system to identify crime trends and where drunken-driving accidents and deaths occurred more frequently.

That current system replaced troopers putting colored pins on maps. A cluster of pins of the same color showed a trend such as burglaries in one neighborhood, said Capt. Thomas E. Dubovi, who worked with both methods when he was assigned at the Kittanning state police station. He now supervises the investigative records system.

“The system will allow us to be data driven rather than paper driven” and record all contacts with PSP, he said.

Georgia said the state is separately upgrading its radio system to more easily access other law enforcement radios.

That upgrade will make it easier for troopers to contact municipal, county and state police officers who are on different radio systems instead of using cellphones.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711 or [email protected].

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