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Technology gives long arm a hand

Authorities praise new crime-mapping system, which allows for faster, more efficient tracking of law

Posted: May 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Deputies followed the stolen truck through Santa Clarita, from Drayton Street in Newhall to a home-improvement store on Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus. The search for the stolen Ford F-250 ended in front of a Valencia home May 11.

Within minutes, helicopters were hovering above Cross Street, and a daylong standoff interrupted the lives of dozens of residents of the quiet suburban neighborhood.

Large-scale police operations like the Valencia standoff last week could become safer and more effective, officials said this week, through the use of digital crime-mapping technology the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station began instituting months ago.

By the end of June, sheriff’s officials hope to have a digital SMARTBoard installed in the station that will become the cornerstone of a new crime researchcenter at the station.

The board will be able to project a map, giving commanders at the station a clearer picture of where a crime is occurring, Sgt. Darren Harris of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station said.

“We’d be able to write directly on a digital screen to measure the heights of buildings and look at an area from an aerial perspective,” Harris said. “We could see where we need patrol units and figure and assess critical situations quicker.”

Harris said he is currently working to prepare bid packages to acquire the board.

The ways in which policing operations are conducted in the Santa Clarita Valley have been changing since Capt. Paul Becker assumed command of the station in March 2010.

Becker overhauled how crime tips were reported. Before he arrived, the station was so disorganized that not all crime tips coming in were being investigated, he said.

Becker disbanded the station’s community relations unit, and had them focus on crime prevention initiatives instead.

As part of this new unit, eight zone leaders have been assigned to separate regions across the Santa Clarita Valley.

Each zone leader is responsible for monitoring crime trends in their area and reporting the information to Becker and other commanders at the station during weekly meetings, Harris said.

The restructuring is intended to create a competitive environment, with each zone leader competing to keep crime rates low in their respective areas, Harris said.

“The changes have been substantial,” Harris said. “I haven’t seen anything quite like this at any of our 26 sheriff’s stations (in Los Angeles County).”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s automated system creates detailed crime reports that show the number of serious crimes, including robberies, assaults and murders, streamlining the analysis process, Becker said.

That way, sheriff’s officials can react with beefed up patrols.

If, for instance, the reports show a spike of robberies in Saugus during a particular week, deputy patrols and police tactics will be changed to quell crime in the area.

“We’re developing this unit from the ground up, so it’s still evolving,” Harris said. “If we can stop one person from being victimized, that’s a win in our eyes.”

Thanks to the department-wide technology push, residents can see the crimes that have occurred in their neighborhoods by visiting www.crimemapping.com.

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