Ravell Call, Deseret News
DRAPER — A Utah-based software firm is using technology to help law enforcement reduce crime and aid schools in their efforts to prevent kids from taking their own lives.
Based in Draper, PublicEngines is a provider of cloud-based solutions that aid in the facilitation of crime analysis, supply intelligence and increase community engagement for law enforcement, schools and governments.
With more than 2,000 customers worldwide, the company's products include CrimeReports, an online crime mapping solution that is available to the public; CommandCentral, a proprietary crime analytics and data visualization engine; and TipSoft, an anonymous crime tip submission and management platform.
The Salt Lake Police Department has used CommandCentral for about a year and a half, according to Sgt. Cameron Platt who runs the community intelligence unit that includes eight detectives. Prior to using the new software, he said tracking “hot spots” for criminal activity was much less efficient.
“The interface is really easy,” he said. “It’s something you could use as a patrol officer, as a detective or as a supervisor.”
The data compiled through the program allows Platt to determine where to strategically place resources to help combat crime in targeted areas. For example, the department was able to significantly reduce “car prowls” in the downtown area where numerous vehicles had previously been targeted.
“We started looking at the maps and crime reports,” he said. “(Where and) the times of the day that they occurred and figured out where to put officers and try to interdict the people that were out there committing the car prowls.”
He said the strategy is estimated to have prevented 40 to 50 vehicle burglaries over a one-week period — a dramatic impact, he said.
“Overall, it’s been effective,” Platt said. “It’s been very valuable.”
He said he would like to see more local police departments use the technology in their crime-fighting efforts.
“The basic premise is that crime is very predictable,” said PublicEngines CEO William Kilmer. “It’s not as random as you think it is.”
Because criminals often behave in ways that create patterns, the software is able to indicate when and where those patterns occur in real time, he said.
“The idea is to allow (users) at a law enforcement agency to have the analytics needed to target crime on the fly,” said client services manager Erin McKay.
Utilizing TipSoft from PublicEngines, a Colorado nonprofit child advocacy organization claims to have achieved more than 1,000 suicide interventions. Safe2Tell is an anonymous venue for parents, teachers, administrators and law enforcement in Colorado to share information and ensure student safety.
Over 10 years, the program has received nearly 7,500 tips, reported more than 270 planned school attacks and reported more than 1,800 acts of bullying, said Natasha Sansoni, communications manager at Safe2Tell.
“Our goal is to intervene at the very earliest point of a situation,” she said. “We know that intervention by a caring, committed adult can be the beginning of true prevention in a student’s life.”
“This is an incredibly important achievement and another accomplishment in our ongoing efforts to keep kids safe,” Kilmer said. “Having an intuitive and anonymous tool to help yourself and your friends is the key to preventing suicides and other violence against students. It’s very gratifying to know that we offer that tool, and that it’s being used successfully.”
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