Located on the banks of the Allegheny River in Warren County, Pa., the City of Warren Police Department employs 16 sworn officers and three staff members that serve approximately 10,000 residents in a 3.1 square mile area.
Understanding the value of technology to help the department run more efficiently and effectively, the department had been using a records management system (RMS) for years. However, many of its processes were still being done by hand. In 2010, the department decided to move to Metro Technology Services’ Visual Alert solution to automate processes across the entire organization. As a complete solution offering Records Management, Resource Management, and Information Sharing in one system, Visual Alert was the right fit for the City of Warren.
“I had a history with using Visual Alert back in 1999-2000 while working in York County,” said Chief Raymond Zydonik (pictured). “I was familiar with the product and knew that its capabilities and ease of use would benefit our department. Visual Alert had the features we were looking for in a records management system, including a parking enforcement tool to automate our ticketing process, evidence management, mobile access, and in-depth reporting.”
The department writes approximately 10,000 parking tickets each year. Before Visual Alert, the officers would handwrite their tickets, and someone in the parking department would enter the information into the system. Now, through Metro Technology’s partnership with Duncan Solutions, a provider of handheld devices, the officers enter the ticket information into the system directly from the handhelds – eliminating duplication of effort. “This is saving our officers time as well as our staff. It speeds up the process and there is less chance for error. It has made for a much cleaner process,” commented Chief Zydonik.
With a portable ticket writer, the Visual Alert parking enforcement tool can automate the process from beginning to end. Once the ticket is in the system, payments can be easily recorded as they come in and for those tickets which are not paid by the specified date, Visual Alert automatically creates a citation. “Our officers can print the citation, sign it and hand it directly to the magistrate, who no longer needs to attempt to decipher each officer’s handwriting. The solution helps him as well.”
Another feature in Visual Alert that was a significant factor in the department moving to a new system was the barcoding capabilities for managing inventory of evidence. The department now has access to Visual Alert in the evidence room. Individuals in the property department can easily barcode evidence as it comes in, and easily locate it. “Before, with our old system, everything was done by hand. Our staff had to key everything into a spreadsheet. The barcoding and search capabilities in Visual Alert make it very easy to find evidence when we need to,” said Chief Zydonik.
“We are just about to launch the in-car component,” explained Chief Zydonik. “The laptops are ready to go in four cars and with the Visual Alert mobile license, the officers will be able to do virtually anything from the car that they could do in the office – enabling them to spend more time on the road and less time at their desk.”
The department also purchased thermal printers for each of the cars. Now the officers can enter the information for a traffic citation, and simply print the ticket for the motorist, speeding up the process for each incident.
Additionally, for traffic accidents, previously the officer would manually complete a form that would include the license, registration, insurance, crash location, date and time, and other details related to the incident, and provide copies to all parties involved. Later the officer would key the information into the system back in the office. With mobile access to Visual Alert, officers can key that information into their laptop and print and distribute multiple reports right at the accident site, expediting the process and moving officers on to the next call much more quickly.
Reporting is a necessary evil of all law enforcement agencies. “Like most departments in today’s economy with declining budgets, we are in the saving jobs mode. City Council is cutting back budgets and therefore this is the time to pull out the data on how many hours we are spending on calls, the type of calls, and so on,” said Chief Zydonik. “All the data is in the system, so reports can be generated on all types of information. The activity report has been helpful in showing the number of hours it takes to complete specific tasks, such as the average number of minutes required for each domestic. The summary reports that are in the Visual Alert system have also been helpful for accountability.”
Chief Zydonik explained that his department completed several days of Visual Alert training when the system was initially installed and found it very helpful for answering a lot of the basic questions. “Until you get in the system yourself and use it, the basic training is what you need. Since the training, we have used the customer support quite a bit and it has been great. We’ve been told that our department is really testing the system because we are using every feature and functionality that we can. The team at Metro has been very responsive in their upgrades and trying to accommodate our specific needs.”