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.