U.S. funds to aid upgrade of city police computers

Quicker data system to be ready within a year

October 01, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Police Department will soon begin switching to a beefed-up computer system of crime analysis that will enable commanders to track trends and process data in seconds.

The system is being funded by a $250,000 federal grant that was awarded to the agency yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, according to city and federal officials. The system, which officials described as new computer programs and upgraded computer systems, should be ready for use in six months to a year, city officials said.

It will enable the agency's nine district commanders and other supervisors to quickly analyze crime trends. The data will also be available to departments in neighboring counties, helping them to better deploy resources, said city and federal officials.

"This upgrade is like going from walking to buying and driving a new car," said Lt. Paul Herman of the department's crime analysis unit.

Using existing crime data, the system is expected to work much more efficiently than the one being used now by the city force. For the past several years, analysts at Baltimore police headquarters have pumped out a package of data that goes to all the commanders to prepare for a weekly crime-trend meeting, known as ComStat. The data is usually a week old and often looks only at trends on the district level.

"For the longest time, Baltimore and cities like it have had a centralized crime-analysis unit that created a canned package of maps, and everybody sat down and discussed them," said Kristen Mahoney, director of grants and governmental relations for the city force. "This will take ComStat to the next level."

Tim Quinn, chief of staff of the Justice Department's COPS office, said his agency believes that if Baltimore's improved ComStat proves successful, other agencies will probably adopt it. "It's innovative and exportable," he said.

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