Inside Chicago Police’s Tech Strategy for Arming Officers with Real-Time Information

Crime Prevention Information Center at the Chicago Police Department headquarters uses Crestron DigitalMedia to distribute mission-critical information to deployed officers.

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Violent crime has been cut almost in half since 1991, with property crime down about 44 percent in that time, in large part because of more effective—and smarter—police work. A shining example comes at the Crime Prevention Information Center at the Chicago Police Department headquarters.

The CPIC recently redesigned and rebuilt its offices to take advantage of the latest technology, with Crestron control and Crestron DigitalMedia systems at the center of the overhaul. CPIC called on Audio Visual Systems to perform the work, with technology designer Jon Chuchla at the helm of the project.

“CPD came to us with the goal of arming officers at the scene with the best information available within minutes of the report of the crime,” Chuchla says.

CPIC provides real-time information to support police officers in the field as they investigate a crime or help with an ongoing situation. CPIC personnel are alerted by the 911 center, who have already identified nearby officers and dispatched them to the scene to investigate. CPIC personnel retrieve information relevant to the crime from various sources, including electronic means, allowing them to look up criminal records and make screen captures of photos and videos to send them to police on the scene.

“And they’re doing all this in real time, so that when the officers are at the scene, they may already have the information they need to make an arrest or start a pursuit,” says Chuchla.

CPIC consists of several rooms: the main command and control room, a primary equipment room, and two distant equipment rooms each containing half of the source equipment.  One key to the system’s effectiveness is the fact that CPIC personnel are trained to think like investigators, rather than dispatchers.

Photos: See Chicago PD technology in action

“They know what information to look for, how to find it and how to feed it to the officers on the street,” Chuchla says.

Another key is the system’s ability to take information from a large number of different sources, ranging from analog security cameras to informational databases and even a gunshot detection system set up across the city, then put them into a highly visual, simple-to-understand form for CPIC personnel to work with.

The CPIC is now in its third iteration, and AVS has been along for the ride from the start, from the emergency operations center of the 1990s to a command center in 2003 to the most recent update, which includes workstations for 16 operators, a new 19-screen video wall, and extensive audio and video systems based on Crestron technology.

Challenging Design
One of the biggest issues for Chuchla and his design team has been many of the information systems used in CPIC cannot, for legal and policy reasons, be connected.

“The city’s dispatch system, for example, includes information from 911 calls, a GPS mapping application showing resource locations, and the operators’ notes,” says Chuchla. In addition, the Chicago Police Department has developed its own databases, and there is video from the city’s network of outdoor security cameras.

“It would not make sense to put any of that on a computer with a public Internet connection or with email,” Chuchla says, “nor would agency policies allow direct, inter-organizational connections. The information is simply too sensitive and too closely regulated.”

Watch 5 NBC Chicago report on the CPD’s High Tech Crime Fighting Tool: