Routt County agencies take digital step toward efficiency

Routt County Communications dispatcher Brett Kline uses the new computer-aided dispatch system Thursday.

Steamboat Springs — Local emergency responders say new equipment will help them decrease response times and increase efficiency.

The general public also might appreciate getting back on the road a little faster should they be pulled over by a police officer.

The technology upgrade that has put Internet-enabled laptops into patrol cars has been in the works for more than two years, said Tim McMenamin, director of Routt County Communications.

The cost of the project was covered by a $1.55 million federal grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The grant came at a time when an upgrade to the equipment already was needed.

The systems went live Monday, and kinks were being worked out during the week.

“Once we get the bugs worked out and everyone gets through the learning curve, it will be really beneficial,” Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said.

McMenamin said the system was designed by Spillman Technologies, of Salt Lake City, and will be used by all local law enforcement agencies except the Oak Creek and Hayden police departments, which opted out because of the annual fees associated with things like mobile Internet access. All of the Routt fire districts are participating as well, with the exception of the smallest one, the Yampa Fire Protection District. Records departments and the Routt County Jail also are tied into the system.

With the heavy-duty laptops placed in patrol cars, police officers no longer have to relay information through dispatchers, which Wiggins said frees up radio traffic for emergencies. Steamboat Springs Police Department Officer Evan Noble demonstrated Thursday how he can enter a license plate while stopped at a traffic light to see if everything is legal. Officers can check to see if people have arrest warrants and if they are associated with any protection orders. They can scan a driver’s license to validate it, and the information is automatically entered into the system. Printers in the patrol cars will be able to print citations. The whole process should help reduce the time of a traffic stop, which now can take up to 25 minutes, Wiggins said.

“They should be substantially reduced to a five-, 10-minute contact,” Wiggins said.

The software also is integrated into the county’s mapping system so officers can view a map of active and pending calls. The mapping software also will track where officers are, so dispatchers can be more efficient at dispatching calls and officers know where their colleagues are located. Emergency responders now will have a more exact location for where incidents are occurring and a better idea of how to get there.

“We can respond quicker to calls,” Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Mark Mackey said.

Officers will be able to type their reports in the field, which will help keep them out of the office and on the streets, Steamboat Police Capt. Jerry Stabile said.

In addition to typing reports, officers will be able to feed photos, audio and other information into the digital case files.

“In the long run, it will help us go paperless,” Mackey said.

Barb Simms, assistant to the chief of police, was one of the people who helped prepare the county for the transition to the new system. She played a role in the previous two systems, as well.

“We’ve been so used to doing it one way,” Simms said. “You can see the potential that it is going to make us a lot more efficient. The potential is unbelievable.”