That was the subject line of the email sent to me last Friday by Zach Pluhacek, reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star. The content of his email was simply the link to this Thursday article in the New York Times. The reason the story sounded familiar to Mr. Pluhacek is because he had authored this Friday article 2½ years earlier.
If you've followed my blog a bit, you know that I'm interested in the mobile data technology and specifically location-based services. An idea that popped into my head while visiting Los Angeles in November 2009 morphed into a 2010 grant from the National Institute of Justice to develop a location-based services application for police. The application, built by a small team of developers at the University of Nebraska Department of Computer Science and Engineering, was originally named P3i, Proactive Police Patrol Information. It is now branded CrimeView NEARme, as the developers have commercialized the product in collaboration with the Omega Group. The app is available for Windows, Android, and iOS. Lincoln Police Officers are using it laptops, smartphones, and tablets with all three operating systems.
It is interesting to see that the New York City Police Department has followed suit, piloting a smartphone app designed to deliver similar information to their officers in the field. The description of Officer Donaldson using the information available at his fingertips in the article will ring very familiar to Lincoln officers, who are quite accustomed to operating like this. Here's one difference, though: Officer Donaldson entered the address of the building in Harlem in order to bring up the information he sought. In Lincoln, that step would be unnecessary for an officer using NEARme, because it is a location-based service. The icons representing points of interest (like the addresses of arrest warrants, parolees, recent crimes, or sex offfenders) simply appear on a map based on your device's current location, beckoning your finger to tap for further details if you are so inclined.
Police officers equipped with timely and relevant information in the field can work far more effectively, efficiently and safely than when such information is back at headquarters buried in cumbersome programs or on paper. During my career, Lincoln's police information systems have moved from file cabinets in the Records Unit, to terminals on desks, to laptops mounted in patrol cars, and now to tablets and smartphones in the palm of your hand. It has been a dramatic shift that I saw coming long ago, has now gathered momentum in the rest of the country, and will shape the future of police information technology.