July 31--Most police departments in the state could have iPads in the hands of at least a few officers out on the street in six to eight months -- the next phase in public safety software technology.
Five police departments are now employing the electronic tablets using software from East-Haven based NexGen Public Safety Solutions. The officers gave access to the same information they would see in the station or in a patrol car.
NexGen, which started out in a small, 1,400-square-foot office on High Street in East Haven to a 5,800-square-foot Main Street office, has grown to serve 114 out of 169 police departments throughout the state, along with the University of Connecticut'sStorrs campus, Central Connecticut University Police and Connecticut'sDepartment of Public Safety, Mental Health Addiction Services and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The software helps address public safety officers' need to do more with less money, said John Travisano, chief development officer with NexGen. But more than that, it's made everything electronic, drastically curtailing paperwork and duplicate processes, and automating the way documents are submitted to state courts and judicial agencies.
This allows officers to get back on the road faster for public safety purposes. It also creates the potential for more traffic tickets -- good for city revenues, bad for errant drivers.
NexGen made $3 million in sales last year, with their biggest contract to date the $7 million contract with the state's Department of Public Safety.
NexGen has tailored their software to Connecticut state requirements. After initial attempts in their early years to market NexGen nationally, executives soon realized the company was too small at the time, so they refocused their efforts within the state.
Since then, they've continued to add new modules to their software and enhancements like the iPad app, unveiled a year ago. They are also preparing to move in to Massachusetts.
Farmington's police department, one of the five employing iPads, has worked with NexGen since 2002. Before that, the department used different systems that didn't communicate with each other, Farmington Police Chief Paul Melanson said.
Data had to be re-entered multiple times and was not searchable -- you couldn't enter a name and get background information, he said.
Now, much of the data is automated, including imports of information from the Department of Motor Vehicles based on a vehicle identification number.
"All of that information is very accurate, but also, when you import it from something like that you're saving time -- the registration, the plate, it populates all that data," Melanson said. "Really, it's about the officers being more efficient."
While Farmington's police department uses a separate system for scheduling and accreditation, NexGen is used for computer-aided dispatch and as the record management system.
"By and far, it's the most utilized and most important for us," he said.
The department is in the evaluation phase of using iPads, with three in use for officers who are not operating out of vehicles, such as at Westfarms Mall or at schools. The officers with iPads are able to view the same information and have the same functionality as officers at the station and on patrol -- the product's major selling point.
The iPads are cost-efficient, and their functionality saves departments thousands of dollars, according to Sal Annunziato, managing principal of NexGen, who came to the company in 2000 after 25 years in the computer hardware and networking market.
The software cost to individual police departments ranges from $150,000 to $250,000 without the cost of ancillary products. Deployment occurs in 90 to 120 days.
So far, every client has stuck with the product, according to the company.
In Branford, NexGen is allowing the police department to shift from a response-oriented system to using crime analysis for predictive policing, said Capt. Geoffrey Morgan. It also makes sharing information with other departments easier.
"Criminal activity doesn't stay within jurisdictional boundaries," he said. "The larger the database the larger we can take a look at John Q. the criminal. What we want to know when we're doing our searches is, what he's been doing in the surrounding towns, in the region."
In a rash of burglaries in Branford two years ago, the Branford police department put out notices to the community to encourage reporting any suspicious activity immediately.
"As we started to develop a physical profile of this criminal -- and we had nothing more than size and stature that we made some assumptions from based on the crime scene -- within a short amount of time we were able to capture him," he said.
When they checked NexGen to see whether anyone in the system matched up, the software pulled up five pictures -- one of which was the suspect.
"That was after the fact, but that's the type of power that the system had," he said. "Before we weren't able to do that stuff."
Branford has also employed a Distracted Driving Initiative since 2009 and NexGen has helped to drive it forward, reducing distracted driving citations down 50 percent since the initiative began.
"We can use NexGen to employ that kind of power based on the initiatives and philosophies that our police department holds near and dear."
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