Technological advances help law enforcement

When people think of how crime solving has changed over the years, most people probably think ‘DNA’, but there has been much, much more progress and the Odessa Police Department is benefiting from it. fully.

“I think we were late when I became chief and one of the things we decided early on was, ‘Look, we’re short. We are understaffed. You can’t use that as an excuse all the time. You know, your citizens are sick of hearing that old mantra. We’re understaffed, we can’t do this, we can’t do that. So we had to work smarter rather than harder,” OPD chief Mike Gerke said.

As a result, the department has invested in new technologies using grants and donations, and has actually been able to drive down crime statistics, Gerke said. This year, crimes are down 13% from last year, he said.

Still, Gerke said, “The goal here is not to replace officers with technology. That’s not the goal at all. The goal is to increase their capabilities through technology.

sergeant. Ian Kapets, the department’s head of major projects, technology and strategic initiatives, said the department is also using new technology as a recruiting tool, telling potential candidates: “We’re doing some interesting things. It’s not just pen and paper and you go from call to call.

Intelligence-led policing

About three years ago, the OPD began making concentrated efforts to deploy agents to areas identified by the data as high call volume areas, Kapets said. As a result, they saw a significant drop in calls.

“We tell our officers, ‘We still want you to contact citizens. We still want you to let people know what’s going on, but we want you to be in those kind of geographies when you have downtime,” Kapets said.

The department also began using Smart Force, a platform that allows officers to not only share intelligence they’ve gathered with other OPD officers, but also with the County Sheriff’s Office. Ector and Midland law enforcement.

“Think of it like a Facebook for cops,” Kapets said.

For example, if OPD agents notice many catalytic converters being stolen, they may start sharing information about crimes on Smart Force, prompting other agents to do the same. Theoretically, trends and patterns could be established, suspects identified, evidence gathered and arrests made.

“That same person who can cause three, four or five reports here is going to cause three, four, five reports there, so now if I take that person into custody, I benefit so many more people than us.” Kapets said.

Cameras

Over the years, the department has also invested in different types of cameras.

Incident Management Cameras are cameras mounted at various locations around the city, monitored at the city’s real-time intelligence center and shared with the parks and public works departments.

The city can use the 16 cameras to keep extra tabs on a downtown festival, public works can use them to monitor traffic, and officers can use them to catch criminals, Kapets said.

“If I have a big event with people, I want to be able to at least keep an eye on things,” Kapets said. “If there’s a medical crisis where I need to have a fire truck run through a large crowd of people, I can tell them exactly where a person is.”

The cameras, which cost around $5,000 each, are used most often by the OPD, Kapets said.

“They are on our public roads. They are on our traffic intersections,” Kapets said. “If I have a robbery at a business or if I have some kind of major crime…we can pan the camera around and say ‘Okay, hey, I’m looking at this business right now. I found the actor. The actor gets into a vehicle. They leave. Here’s the direction of the journey. We can take our officers and hone them a little more.

Kapets hopes that one day Odessa will have a full network of incident management cameras everywhere, because the faster paramedics and officers can respond to a call, the better.

“I was sent to Minnesota for a few years on a state patrol and we had a network of about a thousand traffic cameras,” Kapets said. “We got to the point where a soldier was calling in a chase or some kind of major incident or accident and we had him on camera before they even got to the scene or I was even typing notes in the computer). I could start the ambulances immediately.

Flock security cameras, which cost $2,500 each, read license plates and were recently used to identify a suspect in a fatal hit-and-run accident, Kapets said.

However, the police department hopes others will see their usefulness and start buying them as well, he said.

“If homeowners associations, apartments or businesses buy them, we’d like them to share them with us,” Kapets said.

These private companies could help the OPD identify burglary suspects and save the OPD the expense of having to buy more, he said.

“If a stolen vehicle enters your HOA or a vehicle, maybe we’ve been monitoring for break-ins, breaking into your homeowners association, every patrol officer that’s working will get a push notification on their computer and an email that said, ‘Hey, this vehicle just got scanned by any owners association,’ Kapets said.

Officers will head over there and see if anything is about to happen or stop them for questioning, he said.

Kapets stressed that the information is only stored for 30 days to ensure that people’s rights are not violated.

Drone

Over the past five years, the city of Odessa has used a drone to monitor major city events, for marketing purposes, and to help with SWAT confrontations, searches for missing persons, and to track down burglary suspects. .

In fact, they used a drone during Firecracker Fandango earlier this month, Kapets said.

“We had several people who went down from heat exhaustion. You had a really big crowd, which was amazing this year with all the people who came out and found them in the crowd as people tried to wave to the firefighters or the police and direct them to that person. It really is a tight-knit team and we can use them for the public good.

However, the city just launched a free, year-long pilot program with Paladin, a Houston-based startup that officials hope will have a huge impact on the city, Kapets said.

Five $20,000 drones that can be used beyond an operator’s visual line of sight have been placed at fire stations around the city and integrated into the city’s computer-aided dispatch system, a- he declared.

If someone calls 911 to report a theft or fire, a dispatcher can launch a drone from the nearest fire station, Kapets said. Ten Odessa fire rescue personnel and 10 OPD officers will be certified to operate the drones through the FAA.

The drone’s cameras will allow drone operators to see what’s going on and help deploy the appropriate number of fire engines and ambulances or direct officers to the exact location of a fleeing robbery suspect, a he declared. They will be able to fly over the highway and provide information that will aid in traffic control or assist OFR engineers in circumventing roadblocks.

Paladin drones can fly within a range of three miles, twice that of a regular drone, Kapets said.

If the city decides to buy more drones in the future, Kapets said that by sharing the drones with other city departments, he thinks the city can reduce the cost of drones to “a few dollars each time.” that they are used.

“We’ve invested heavily in applying for grants and trying to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money and getting that money to go further. I think anyone in this office can attest to that. I am the first to try to negotiate a contract,” Kapets said.

OPD has definitely become a regional resource and precedent maker, Kapets said.

“It ultimately comes back to that age-old adage of working smarter, not harder and I really think we’re leading the way in that,” Kapets said.

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