Computer Upgrade Speeds Up Data
By SCOTT NOWLING
ST. GEORGE – What happens in Hurricane does not necessarily stay in Hurricane.
A recent law enforcement computer upgrade allows dispatchers, supervisors and police officers on patrol anywhere in Washington County to view incidents, calls and vehicle locations anywhere in the county in real time.
Law enforcement in the county has used computers for many years to assist in information retrieval, but the latest version of the software is a big leap for patrol officers.
There are three major improvements involved in the upgrade,said Sherman Stebbins, local area network administrator for St. George City.
He said the first improvement is the ability of all agencies in the county to share information quickly.
Consequently, a person who is cited for an offense like trespassing or speeding in Hurricane or Springdale instantly shows up on the computer screens of every law enforcement unit in Washington County.
Before the upgrade, an incident in one jurisdiction would not be accessible to other jurisdictions, Stebbins said.
The second improvement is that each vehicle has a global positioning system receiver that updates the location of the vehicle every five seconds and allows anyone on the system to see, via an interactive map on a laptop computer screen, the location of every unit in the county, Stebbins said.
He said seeing the location of each unit visually represented on a mapdecreases response time.
Dispatchers can actually see which unit is the closest to a destination and send that unit.
The third improvement is that calls appear on the vehicle's computer screen at the same time they appear on the dispatcher's screen.
Patrol officers can actually dispatch themselves, which saves time, Stebbins said.
St. George Police Department Patrol Officer Steve Linton likes the upgrade.
“The new system has a lot more capabilities,” he said. “The map feature is part of the GPS and as you are going to a call, that call is listed on the screen.
“You can pull up the map and drive right to it even if it's a street you're not familiar with.”
Linton said he alsolikes the self-dispatch feature.
“It saves time by the simple fact that before (the current upgrade) we would have to wait for dispatch to send us to a call,” he said. “Now, the call will come up on our screen and before they actually dispatch us we can see the call come up and start heading to the call. That shortens response time.”
Linton said that it can also reduce the amount of radio traffic by allowing patrol officers to check driver's license numbers and vehicle registrations without going through the dispatch, which reduces the dispatchers' workload.
The software is housed in a normal laptop computer connected to a GPS receiver and a wireless PC modem, Stebbins said.
“The software upgrade is a simplification of the old version and that made it really fast,” said Stebbins, who was a patrol officer with the Hurricane Police Department 16 years ago when Hurricane first purchased the program.
“The new version is very similar to the previous version, so training for the new system was nothing. The power is incredible.”
The upgrade to combine all of the county law enforcement agencies was paid for by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and joined specialists like Stebbins fromSt. George, Ryan Larkin and undersheriff Bart Bailey from the Washington County Sheriff's Office and Dean Cox, Washington County Emergency Services Director.
The software was developed by Spillman Technologies, Inc., a Salt Lake City company that services more than 600 agencies and has specialized in public safety software for more than 25 years.