Thursday, October 4, 2012

SAFECOP – a New Weapon in Tampa’s Arsenal

Guest post by Kelly Miller
The crime fighters in our novels don’t rely on Ouija boards to capture the bad guys. They use the latest technology available. If you write crime fiction, it’s imperative you familiarize yourself with the systems police departments across the country use.

When the Republican National Convention came to Tampa, Florida, last month, the Tampa Police Department was thrust into the national spotlight. Chief Jane Castor and her officers performed exceptionally well under the stress of picketers and two weeks of twelve-hour shifts. There were even Tampa residents interviewed on the local news, complaining how quiet downtown was during the RNC. If that was the worst criticism of the week, I’d say the TPD exceeded expectations.

One benefit of the convention was the purchase of a $400,000 software upgrade from Congressional money set aside for convention security. This technology allows Tampa officers to continuously scan updated maps for crime trends. When police respond to a crime scene, they enter the information collected into the system and Tampa maps are updated instantaneously. This software also allows officers access to maps showing career criminals, sexual predators, and juvenile offenders living in a specific area.

In the past, if the TPD wanted to send out a BOLO (Be on the Look Out), it could take several hours or even days for officers to receive the information. Now alerts happen in real time. Investigators can send out these bulletins using the new software as well as post photos and videos.

Shortly after the RNC, the bay area got to see this new software in action when a burglary suspect was arrested. Reportedly a man broke into an office building, ransacked the place, and stole cash and audiovisual equipment. Burglary cases often take at least a few days to solve, if solved at all. But this suspect was arrested in only two hours. Police checked the burglarized company’s surveillance video and found an image of the suspect. An officer used a cellphone camera to take a picture of the man in the video. Then the photo and a description of the suspect were entered into the new system and it quickly lead to his capture.

Kelly Miller’s first novel, Dead Like Me (due out November 29), is set in Tampa, Florida where she lives. This technology isn’t something her detectives use, but the third book in the Kate Springer series will be set during this time period—September 2012. Kelly is hoping the backdrop of the RNC and new technology like SAFECOP will add extra flavor to the story. Please visit Kelly's website and her blog.


  1. Welcome to Crime Fiction Collective, Kelly! Interesting post! Let's hope other cities follow Tampa's lead in upgrading their technology to help the police officers do a more efficient job in fighting rising crime. And good info for crime writers to know!

  2. I love hearing about developments like this, especially since so many police departments are underfunded. Thanks for an informative post.

  3. Nice post, Kelly! You are exactly right that as crime fiction authors, we need to stay on top of current technology, if we write contemporary stories. I highly recommend people attend their local Citizen's Police Academy as well as the Writer's Police Academy that Lee Lofland puts on.

    We just hosted the debates last night, and other than traffic shifts, there was barely a ripple.

    I subscribe to Crime Reports ( and it's fascinating to plug in an address and see the recent calls in that area, including information on sex offenders.

    Thanks again for your post!

  4. I'm so glad I could participate today. Thanks for having me!

    I've been trying to attend our local Citizen's Police Academy for almost two years now. The timing never seems to be right. As a SAHM of three, it's hard to link up everyone's schedule so I can free up the time to go.

    Peg - thanks for the tip about Crime Reports. I'll have to look into that.

  5. Interesting information, Kelly. I wonder if we can expect to see this type of information used for Amber alerts and the like.

  6. Great info, Kelly. I had no idea that all of this was taking place. How totally cool. Great info for the budding crime novelist, and excellent tools for law enforcement!

  7. Interesting comment aboout the AMBER Alerts. Here's some details about the technology available. If your cell phone is capable of receiving texts and your wireless carrier participates in the Wireless AMBER Alerts Initiative, you can sign up to receive AMBER Alerts at Then when an alert is initiated by law enforcement, a text is sent directly to you. You can designate up to five zip codes from which you'd like to be alerted in the case of an AMBER Alert.

  8. Hey Kelly,
    This is terrific information for fiction writers. News on the latest crime fighting technology is always welcome. Thanks for great post!

  9. Yup, ya gotta know what your characters know. When authors take the time to research specific elements like this, it shows in the quality of the story. Great post to remind us to do our homework. ~JRG

  10. Good article, Kelly. RNC had the nation’s eyes on Tampa Bay. Police issues and crime fighting is a daily duty for our officers, unfortunately, not usually spotlighted. As authors, we need to dig deep to get facts correct. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  11. Appreciated hearing about the new software. Very interesting. It sounds like you are up to date with your information, and I am looking forward to seeing how you incorporate SAFECOP into your third novel.


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