The software program organizes and maps data to help law enforcement increase efficiency
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield Police Department is implementing a new software program called Command Central to map, organize, and display data regarding crime patterns and trends in the community.
The software maps where a crime has taken place, shows how much criminal activity has occurred in a specific section of town over various time frames, and specifies what types of crime are being committed as well as when they occur. It is a tool that will help the department focus and allocate their resources in order to best address crime in Marshfield.
Command Central inputs all of the data and files the department has into a program that is interactive and provides a visual representation of what would otherwise just be data on a piece of paper.
“Why we wanted to buy into that is to … police the community smarter, be able to understand what our data is telling us. Data doesn’t do us a whole lot of good if it’s just numbers and we really can’t make those numbers work for us,” Marshfield Police Chief Rick Gramza said.
Gramza added that the program will inform officers about what is happening in their assigned territories and could make the department more efficient by allowing officers to know which areas of the community are seeing the most activity and might require extra enforcement.
“It’ll educate our officers better,” Gramza said. Command Central works with Google Maps technology so that officers can even see a street view of where a crime or other activity has taken place.
The program’s heat mapping feature can show patterns in terms of what times of day or year are heaviest for a certain type of activity, for example traffic accidents at a certain location, and will allow the department to better allocate staff.
“The heat maps are real nice for us just because that allows to say, ‘OK, are we staffing … the community properly as it relates to when our heaviest calls for service are?’” Gramza said. “We can look at just car accidents and say ‘OK, well, what day of the week and what time of day (are) most of our car accidents?’”
Gramza said that the program could allow for smarter patrol and response techniques. There will also be a public aspect to the program where the community, depending on what the police department chooses to disseminate, could be able to see maps of where crimes have taken place around Marshfield.
Gramza gave the example of a person potentially moving into a neighborhood and having the capability of seeing if sex offenders lived in the area through the mapping technology.
Command Central, Gramza said, is “capable of doing anything we want.” The learning curve is in determining how specifically to utilize the software and maximize its effectiveness. Predictive policing could also be a future benefit of the software. Once patterns become evident in the data, police could determine an area that might be a target for future crime based on past trends.
The department is still in the initial phases of implementing Command Central and training officers on how to use the program. The software costs the department about $4,200 per year.
The department will also roll out a mobile phone application in the near future called MyPD. The application will allow easy avenues for contacting police, listing all department contacts, so that citizens can submit a tip to law enforcement or even report a possible traffic concern.
Gramza gave the example of an obstruction lying in the middle of the road like a tree branch. The application would allow users to take a photo and attach it to a message to police, allowing for almost instantaneous communication between citizens and law enforcement. He added that with all of the national turmoil surrounding the activities of police officers, it is increasingly important for the department to be transparent and accessible to the public.