Tampa police officers have a new crime-fighting tool that they helped design. It's called SAFECOP.
Assistant Chief John Bennett wanted a way to get crime information out to patrol officers quicker. So he asked for help from Rob Wolf, who runs NC4, a software developer. It allows officers to police smarter, he says.
Right on their computer in their cruiser, they have maps that show crime trends. It can pinpoint where known habitual criminals live. And it has blogging capabilities that officers can use to communicate tips or other information between shifts.
It's a far cry from the old days when officers would have to wait for weekly meetings, where crime information was shared.
"It will revolutionize the way Tampa polices the city," insisted Chief Jane Castor.
"The idea was how can you get that information out to the officers in real time. Let them do the analysis."
They've only been using it for two weeks. They started during the RNC, but didn't use it for crime-solving at the convention. Instead, it was deployed out in the neighborhoods, giving officers another tool when detectives were on convention assignments.
Asst. Chief Bennett says there are so many tools to use. "If they want to zoom in to a specific area, they have the ability to do that with just a click of a button."
And they can find specifics on any crime -- "Each officer can then go and dive into that crime through a link."
It's already proven its worth. It solved a burglary that happened at 100 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Between Tuesday the 4th and the morning of Wednesday the 5th, someone came in by busting in an air conditioning unit. They stole cash and audio/video equipment.
The officer who responded took a quick picture off the surveillance camera. He created a crime bulletin on the spot and sent it to every officer within minutes.
Chief Castor explained what officers were able to do with that: "Within 2 hours, ROC officers see a guy down on 20th and Nebraska wearing the same outfit."
They stopped and questioned Lanny Marler and asked him to empty out his pockets. Police say they found a master key that had been stolen from the business.
Marler was arrested and booked on burglary charges.
Police say getting that information out before SAFECOP would have taken at least a week.
The burglary victim, Gerard Scalzo, was amazed police found him so fast.
"I didn't think they would. He's a transient, they walk up and down the street, they're all over the city. So the odds of them finding him were astronomical. But I was glad they found him."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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