Computers give cops edge over crooks

Michael Lewis

There are some new weapons in town.

Actually, they have been around for a year or so, but their impact as a tool to fight crime appears successful.

Kent State police officers, armed at the hip with an ASP and an M9 Beretta pistol, added laptop computers to their arsenal.

The computers mount in their cruisers, providing access to state and local databases full of criminal dossiers, and they have increased efficiency and student safety. In fact, the Kent State Police Department has done away with a paper trail of reports.

Assistant Chief Dean Tondiglia said installing this new technology means officers spend more time in the community. The increase in efficiency allows the “officers to be more engaged with the students.”

“We’re able to really increase the amount of time officers have on the road to patrol and do other cop activities that they need to do,” Tondiglia said. “Just by being out in the community, hopefully students feel more secure.”

Tondiglia could not say whether more crimes have been solved because of the computers, but it is clear officers have extra time to investigate calls and correlate data. Now officers can search databases for descriptions that identify individuals wanted for a crime.

David Creamer, vice president of Administration, agreed that information in today’s environment is critical to responding to students’ needs.

“Our police force does a very good job providing safety in the university environment,” Creamer said. “Students should have confidence that we’ll deal with crime in the appropriate manner.”

From homicides to disorderly conduct, in one state or another, this type of field investigation is both quick and safe for the officer.

“I think having the database available to the officers allows them to do a lot of different types of activities right in their vehicles,” Tondiglia said.

Crime Prevention Officer Alice Ickes said from the time a call comes in, the information is available to whoever wants it. Instead of waiting until the next day, officers can follow-up with their initial investigation.

“You have to build a database before you can use it,” Ickes said. “As it grows, we’ll have more flexibility. It’s really helpful.”

Tondiglia, who also serves as associate director of public safety, said plans are in place to install a location identification system using cell phones. Such a system exists for 911 calls that come across landlines. The dispatcher simply pinpoints the location through the telephone.

When a cell phone user dials 911, the dispatcher has no idea where the person is calling from. When the system is operational, if, for instance, a mugger knocks the phone out of your hand and the signal drops, the dispatcher will know where to send the officer, she said.

“Eventually, our dispatch will be able to get that data when you call,” Tondiglia said.

Considering the number of students who use cell phones, the system could prove life-saving. Tondiglia said cell phone companies are charging phone bills with a tax of 32 cents for the system.

Contact safety reporter Michael Lewis at [email protected].