While computer-aided dispatch installations will continue to command the lion's share of those public safety funds, spending on both mobile computers and integrated law enforcement systems is expected to rise sharply by 2002.
Less costly technology and federal grant money from the Department of Justice's Cops More (Making Officer Redeployment Effective) program is spurring demand. Part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Cops More provides matching grants to crime agencies for technology investments. Also providing an incentive are upgrades to the FBI National Crime Information Center.
Spending on computer-aided dispatch systems is expected to zoom from $395 million in 1997 to $761 million in 2002, says Loriega, boosting the bottom lines of vendors including Litton-PRC Inc., McLean, Va; Tiburon Inc., Fremont, Calif.; Intergraph Corp., Reston, Va., and Printrak International, Anaheim, Calif.
Most of the top markets already have deployed such systems, so "we are starting to push down now into more midsized and small communities," says Bob Scott, executive manager for marketing with Intergraph Federal Systems, Huntsville, Ala.
Since their introduction 25 years ago, computer-aided dispatch systems have become increasingly sophisticated, getting a major boost in the mid- to late 1980s with the introduction of Enhanced 911, says Scott.
Taking advantage of new electronic switching technology, Enhanced 911 automatically provides data, such as the caller's telephone number and location, to the dispatcher viewing a computer screen, he says.
In the 1990s, computer-aided dispatch systems added graphical user interfaces, mapping and automated vehicle location technology - all of which increased the speed and accuracy of police response to incidents while allowing dispatchers to better manage patrol cars in the field.
With the introduction of Windows NT, computer-aided dispatch prices have fallen, says Scott, noting Intergraph now offers only Windows-based systems. Computer-aided dispatch systems used to cost about $5 million; they now can be acquired for as little as $200,000, Scott says.
"Now I've got affordability that can go down into the 100,000 or 75,000 population city," he says. The affordability factor has sparked "an explosion" of computer-aided dispatch system installations.
"Not only are cities buying it, but cities are getting together and doing more at the county level, and we are seeing more and more joint activities between local agencies," he says.
One Intergraph customer, Madison County, Ala., for example, now dispatches for all agencies in the county, including the sheriff, fire, emergency medical services and police departments, including those in Huntsville. Madison County's population is 256,000.
Intergraph is installing a similar system in San Diego County, Calif. It will give police access to criminal databases in the field and "an over-the-air interface to our report writing," says Capt. Alan Truitt, commander of the San Diego County Sheriff's Communications Division. That means units can spend more time on the road and less time in the station, he says.
Intergraph has installed about 30 to 40 such systems in the United States and 70 worldwide, Scott says. Computer-aided dispatch sales generate about 10 percent of Intergraph's revenue, which was roughly $1.2 billion in 1997.
In patrol cars throughout the nation, electronic status terminals and radios are giving way to ruggedized laptop computers, such as those marketed by Cycomm International, McLean, Va. Specially designed for public safety markets, these computers have special lighting to permit day or night use. They can also tolerate a range of temperatures and vibration and have a protective magnesium case, says Albert Hawk, president and CEO of Cycomm.
The average unit costs about $5,600. Among the customers snapping up these computers are police departments in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Washington.
The state and local public safety market for mobile data terminals, including mobile computers, is expected to grow from $95 million last year to $217 million by 2002, according to G2R.
Among other things, mobile computers provide a vital tool to investigators in the field. For example, Officer Arnold Anderson of the Irvington Police Department in New Jersey uses a computer to diagram accident and crime scenes using software from Visio Corp., Seattle.
"Every time I do an accident scene where I have to do a detailed diagram, I use Visio, and it has cut my reporting [time] by more than half," he says. Previously, the drawing had to be done by hand.
Anderson says he recently used his mobile computer following a shooting and car chase that took officers through three counties. Before the fleeing car crashed, the driver tried to run a few police officers down and pushed one of the police cars into the path of an oncoming tractor trailer, he says. "All of this had to be diagrammed and illustrated for testimony in court."
More importantly, police can use the computers to receive emergency calls and access local and federal databases over wireless networks. A fast-growing market of wireless solution providers include IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y., and GTE Corp., Stamford, Conn., as well as smaller niche companies, such as Paradigm4, New York, and Cerulean Technology Inc. of Marlboro, Mass.
Wireless networks provide safety and productivity benefits for police. For example, new wireless communications systems are discrete, compared with traditional radio dispatches.
"Right now in the normal [computer-aided dispatch] environment, they're still dispatching information over the air, and anybody with a scanner can pick up that information and know where cops are going," says Tom Welch, chief information officer at Paradigm4, which outsources wireless services to agencies through its Advanced Data Collection Outsourcing program.
"We provide a laptop, software, the wireless modem - everything they need for a wireless hookup for $360 a month," says Welch. Pittsburgh became the first larger city to sign up for the plan under a $1 million contract with Paradigm4 inked last December, he says.
Wireless systems allow police who have stopped an offender to access key databases in seconds to check for things such as outstanding arrest warrants.
"Without wireless technology, the cop calls it in over his regular radio to the dispatcher, and routine checks can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, depending how busy the air traffic or the dispatcher is," says Welch. This helps police officers who can only hold potential suspects for a relatively short period of time. In New York, for example, police can only hold suspects without charges for about 10 minutes.
"Obviously, getting the data back to the car so the officer knows the situation [is also] a benefit to him and his personal safety," adds Karenne Smith, the information technology architect at IBM's public safety and justice group in Raleigh, N.C.
Earlier this year, the Missouri State Highway Patrol
began using IBM's network solution - eNetwork Law Enforcement Express - in its patrol cars. The system, including hardware, can run anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 per car, she says.
Smaller communities - those with fewer than 30 patrol cars - have also turned to IBM for wireless solutions. In Bossier, La., population 86,000, IBM has equipped 25 patrol cars with IBM Thinkpads that use wireless network access to some of the agency's existing dispatch applications, says Smith. She likened it to a baby step toward getting officers comfortable with using in-car computers.
For smaller communities ready for a fully wireless solution, IBM offers eNetwork Wireless Express, which includes software and systems integration services, for a monthly leasing charge of $250 per car.
Studies show that wireless technology is a boon to police productivity. A law enforcement study in Ohio last year involving both GTE and Cerulean showed that police officers using Cerulean's PacketCluster Patrol software made 18.9 more arrests per officer over the three-month duration of the study. The study was a cooperative effort of six Ohio law enforcement organizations with industry contributing products and services.
In its mobile wireless solution, GTE has put together a standardized suite of vendors and provides systems integration services. For the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, for example, GTE has installed laptop computers with Cerulean's PacketCluster Patrol software into 166 patrol cars and connected them with the FBI's information center via the Washington Area Law Enforcement System, the local law enforcement records management system.
Valued at $1.4 million, this deployment is the first phase of a multiphase project that will culminate with Washington's migration off its current mainframe-based records management system to a new system. GTE has proposed installing an Intergraph records management system. Booz-Allen & Hamilton, McLean, Va., a consultant to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department on the project, is currently doing an assessment of the Intergraph system.
Along with their crime-fighting efforts, patrol officers also can file reports over the network using field software offered by both IBM and Paradigm4. Switching from paper to electronic forms can cut the time it takes to fill out a report by up to 35 percent, says Smith. That's a healthy chunk when you consider the average officer spends 45 percent to 60 percent of his day filling out reports, she adds.