In 1972, the Northern York County Regional Police Department (NYCRPD) was formed by consolidating the police departments of five municipalities. Today, the NYCRPD includes eight municipalities (Dover Borough, Dover Township, Manchester Township, Paradise Township, Conewago Township, North York Borough, Franklin Township, Jackson Township) and one school district (Spring Grove Area School District).
The driving reasons for the consolidation were to better serve their communities and save taxpayers money and these factors still drive the organization’s decisions today. With 51 sworn and four non-sworn employees, NYCRPD serves 67,000 people in a 150-square mile area of York County, Pennsylvania.
In 1997, NYCRPD switched to MetroAlert’s Records Management System (RMS), due to the challenges it was having producing the statistical data that it needed with its existing system. As an organization funded by taxpayer dollars, police departments must justify their existence and ensure the communities they serve that they are providing the necessary services while also running efficiently and being financially responsible.
“We need to document the time we spend on everything, providing an exact breakdown for each patrol area to each of the municipalities,” explained David Lash, Operations Lieutenant at NYCRPD.
Although they have been using the MetroAlert police software solution for more than a decade, the regional agency has experienced the most significant operational improvements more recently with an initiative to streamline internal operations and collaborate with other law enforcement agencies. It has upgraded from Visual Alert 1 to Visual Alert 2 to leverage its automation and information sharing capabilities.
“We cover such a vast area and therefore our officers don’t have the luxury to come back to the office and quickly key in their reports,” explained Lt. Lash. “Before, our officers would complete a handwritten report and then our staff would key the data into the system back at the office, often three to four days later.”
“Now, with Visual Alert 2, we are doing live reporting,” he explained. Officers enter the information from their vehicles and any authorized user can access the details instantaneously. If there is a domestic dispute response on the 3-11 p.m. shift on a Friday and the male subject is combative, it will go right into the system. Therefore, if the midnight shift on Saturday has to respond to an incident with the same individual, the details are readily available and they will know immediately that the subject is potentially violent. With the lag time before, this valuable information would have never been available.
“With timelier information, our guys are able to do their job more efficiently and effectively,” said Lt. Lash. “It really helps with communications between shifts and prevents breakdowns.” The live reporting capabilities enable the officers to be more efficient and the NYCRPD has been able to eliminate redundant data entry within the first year, removing one civilian position and saving the department and taxpayers’ money. With Visual Alert 2, NYCRPD is able to extract more data to create the necessary reports to report back to the various municipalities and school district they serve.
“The accuracy of the reports is much better and they are cleaner looking,” commented Lt. Lash. Now that the civilian staff doesn’t have to read the handwriting of the officers to do data entry, it eliminates data being misread and increases the quality of the information. “Automating report writing drastically reduces paper as well,” Lt. Lash added. “Now, we only print out criminal cases and have been able to significantly cut costs and time for printing, copying
The eight municipalities and one school district that make up the NYCRPD are able to share information with each other through Visual Alert 2. To take it one step further, the Northern York County Regional Police Department on behalf of the 22 law enforcement agencies in York County received a BASLE (Better Automation Sharing by Law Enforcement) grant through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency to implement MetroAlert’s ALERT Server. This advanced information sharing system will allow the District Attorney’s Office, the York County Sherriff’s Office and all but one of the county’s police departments to share valuable data.
ALERT Server will provide a central database that officers will be able to contribute to and search to obtain information about suspects, incidents, etc. that cross municipal lines.
“Burglars don’t pay attention to municipal boundaries,” said Lt. Lash. “Before, we relied on phone communications or monthly meetings to know what was going on in other areas. Now, with ALERT Server, we are able to submit queries and mine the data and then make follow up calls, if necessary, to find out more details. ALERT Server also offers crime mapping capabilities, making it an investigative time saver tool to battle inter-municipal crimes.”
There has also been a recent county-wide rollout to integrate with LEJIS (Pennsylvania’s Law Enforcement Justice Information System) to enable even greater information sharing with agencies across the state. “Lying across two major corridors, we have lots
of tourism and traffic of non-county residents. We are taking full advantage of the Visual Alert 2 and LEJIS information sharing capabilities to ensure we have the data we need when responding to calls.”
Lt. Lash has worked with MetroAlert personally since 2009 and has found the team at MetroAlert to be very responsive to his organization’s needs. “They are able to talk in a language that we understand — cop not tech — and explain in plain English how the solution works. They continue to update the system with new state-mandated forms and criminal charges and have customized the solution to meet the specific regional needs of our agency. They were also instrumental in helping us develop the grant for our county-wide information sharing system.”
NYCRPD will be rolling out the Visual Alert 2 Evidence module in the near future to make the evidence processing more efficient using bar coding technology. Although they have a good system in place, they understand the importance of having all their data in one system to avoid duplicate data entry and to streamline processes.
NYCRPD has taken the bull by the horns and changed the way it operates to better serve its communities, be more fiscally responsible and to collaborate with other agencies throughout York County, as well as throughout the state.