Adoption of mobile technology by Western Australia Police has resulted in faster investigations, safer working conditions and more police on the streets.
WA Police’s mobile data strategy commenced two years ago with the deployment of its own data network across 10,000 square kilometres of the Perth metropolitan area, providing access to in-vehicle computer systems and to citizen records, including pictures. Vehicle locations could also be determined through a GPS system over the network.
According to the program manager for information technology product delivery at WA Police, Superintendent Lance Martin, the data network has helped WA Police improve its investigations in the field.
“We can commence those investigations with the information at hand, rather than having to take initial information and return to the office,” Martin says. “When we arrive at the scene, we are better informed about the people we are about to deal with. That makes it safer, and we are able to resolve the situation because we are not going in blind.”
Combined with the location systems, Martin says the technology has enabled WA Police to better organise resources, and has increased the availability of officers by 11 per cent.
“A fleet of 450 mobile data devices in the initial rollout, makes a big difference to the effective time of patrol,” Martin says. “The increased officer availability of 11 per cent is equivalent to putting the same additional vehicles on the road.” Early success led WA Police to continue developing its mobile capabilities, and it has subsequently switched to Telstra’s NextG network so that devices can be deployed state-wide. Electronic mapping was added, delivering the ability to bring up floor plans of schools, government buildings and premises of interest, and WA Police has integrated the mapping capability with other databases to geo-code the homes of known offenders.
There are now 800 in-vehicle systems deployed, as well as 225 handheld devices which have been given to mounted and foot patrol officers. Martin says a further 210 units are on order. The devices can be used to pinpoint each officer’s location, giving a point of reference for city-based closed circuit surveillance systems.
Martin says the mobile capability has resulted in a 10 per cent improvement in police response times. He is unaware of any other state having the same capability, and it has drawn significant interest from overseas.
“You might say that 10 per cent is not a lot, but when you are responding to an emergency incident and arriving a couple of minutes earlier, it is a major benefit,” Martin says. “We are really excited about that.”
Martin is now turning his attention to how mobile technology might be used to improve WA Police’s collection of forensic evidence such as photographs and fingerprints.
“It’s in its infancy, but it’s definitely a place that WA Police is interested in looking,” Martin says. “I can see within my career that you will be able to scan a fingerprint at the scene and find out who it belongs to.”
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