REVIEWER: Steve Castor, director of public safety communications for Erlanger Kentucky Police Department.
BACKGROUND: Erlanger is located in Northern Kentucky, about 10 miles south of Cincinnati and five miles from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport. The 45 officers on the Erlanger police force cover an area roughly 14 square miles. Erlanger is home to the Erlanger public safety communications center, which includes 10 neighboring cities and towns. Police departments surrounding Erlanger all tap into the communications center to obtain relevant information on crime in the area.
PLATFORMS: Data is stored in a SQL Server database at the Erlanger Police Department and then indexed by the Information Builders WebFOCUS tools at the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission. Mobile users utilize Windows XP Professional, running on Dell D620 laptops using Sprint EVDO Rev A aircard for connectivity.
PROBLEM SOLVED: A major motivator for search technology was a desire for better information-sharing among multiple agencies because much information was not shared across county lines. When the communication center opened up in Erlanger, all the neighboring towns were using a variety of different systems to find data. We very quickly realized we needed a product that could get up-to-date information in real time to officers across multiple towns. We needed a product that could help officers in the field find relevant crime data quickly and efficiently. Today, law enforcement personnel throughout Northern Kentucky can share and find up-to-date information through WebFOCUS Magnify. The product merges data from all the agencies with crime records and incident reports stretching back five years. Magnify combines business intelligence and search technology to enable officers to locate and share data. The software generates real-time search results to police officers in the field, in conjunction with key performance indicators for supervisors at headquarters.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: All cities and agencies connect to the system with their respective police record data. Officers can enter relevant notes into the system directly from the field, and this information may help officers on the next shift. Integration technology updates the search index every 15 minutes with crime records from Erlanger's computer aided dispatch system and records management system. The software taps into these records and rapidly scans indexed content, transforming it into usable information and preparing it for search by end users. Patrol officers can access the system via cellular-powered displays in their vehicles. A huge benefit we've discovered is that with Magnify, we have officers in the field that are equipped with better information, and they can now stay out on the road longer. Officers can search and see where crimes are occurring and then use this information to be much more proactive. With the search product, officers can really see where crime is happening and then take steps to prevent crime.
STRENGTHS: The main strength is ease of use. The tool is extremely easy to use on a daily basis. The Magnify product leverages the Lucene search engine to perform the searches. If an officer is familiar with Google, he or she can use the tool because the interface is extremely similar - a search box where officers enter keyword searches.
WEAKNESSES: A primary weakness is within the department and the quickly changing needs of its users based on their growing experience. Since this type of application is new, there was not a complete understanding of how it would be used and what the primary needs would be. The setup as a hosted solution left everyone depending on a few people who have a deep understanding of how to create the KPIs and how to implement certain changes. A simpler design tool that could incorporate drag-and-drop fields would be a tremendous boost for users with minimal design experience.
SELECTION CRITERIA: The Erlanger Police Department first learned about Information Builders products through the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission. The area planning commission was successfully using Information Builders to provide information to client cities in a timely manner. They recommended Information Builders to us.
DELIVERABLES: The Magnify search tool allows officers to locate crime data out in the field. When users search a keyword, indexed content is scanned to create the Google-style results drawn from all data sources. From the search page, users can follow links to execute reports and access information in the format of their choice, including Microsoft Excel, Adobe PDF, HTML or XML.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Administrators got training through a two- to three-day class. For the officers using the search technology, very little training is needed because the product is so intuitive. The overall training time is quick, and Information Builders was very helpful throughout.
DOCUMENTATION: The design documentation can be somewhat complicated, but for the end user, no documentation is necessary. Users are able to quickly understand the tools and put them to work.
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