City police have a new technology that enables an agent or officer investigating a shooting, a drug overdose or a criminal act to show a potential witness at the scene a photograph array of possible suspects from the seat of the police cruiser.
It's called the Spillman records-management system, and police supervisors touted its value Wednesday, a day after sharing the details with the city public safety committee.
"That same agent at the scene can show witnesses photographs and share information over a laptop rather than having the witness drive to police headquarters," Assistant Police Chief Timothy Miller said.
On Wednesday, City Police Assistant Chief Timothy Miller stands near paper records on a table at the city police records division, many of them weeks or months old. A new records-management system went online two weeks ago and was explained this week to the city public safety committee. It enables police in the field and in offices to access, file and store police records, getting officers on patrol back out into the streets and giving supervisors time to be able to react to criminal trends.
The system does that and a lot more for its $360,000 cost, according to city Police Chief Gregory A. Foresman. He believes the system will pay for itself by helping to reduce crime.
"We budgeted the balance of the cost this year and over the next two years," said William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director.
It's paid for using short-term borrowing approved by City Council to get the money up front. Interest won't exceed $20,000, Nichols said.
The reason it matters to residents is that police can be back on patrol and plot where trends are occurring.
"That means we can deploy all available resources to hot spots, enabling the supervisors to put officers and any available resources to a specific problem area of the city," Miller said.
The data, which is to be shared with Lycoming District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt's office, prevents county officers getting duplicate information or copies, Foresman said.
Some city police officers can't access parts of the system reserved for management, he said.
Miller expects, as investigations continue, they will become more "fluid."
"What used to take a week or more to accomplish can be done in hours or overnight," he said.
Before the technology, police accumulated piles of records, including several-inch-high reams of papers, many of them months old, Miller said.
Foresman said he likes the system's search engine, which can provide a multitude of suspects' names, aliases and addresses.
"Before," he said, "we had to spell everything exactly or it didn't give us information."
In coming months, a map system will be installed to plot where crimes are taking place, Foresman said.