Wireless data solutions are helping British police
to operate more effectively. Throughout the
U.K., police and fire services are adopting
wireless solutions on a broad scale. Following a
framework agreement with the Home Office, RAM
Mobile Data UK and its partners, have increased
the number of solutions available and created
custom solutions for police and fire services. In
the U.K., Mobitex is becoming the national
Untethered police catch more
IN 1996 RAM MOBILE DATA UK was awarded a Framework agreement by the Home Office to provide mobile data services to the police and fire services until 2004. Mobile data forms part of the strategic infrastructure under the National Strategy for Police Information Systems (NSPIS) and is already in use by police and fire services across the UK.
Under the Framework arrangement, RAM offers national and local discounts for its network services and has committed to an exacting service level agreement, designed especially for the emergency services. One third of all Police forces in England and Wales use the RAM Network for mobile data applications. Cleveland Constabulary, West Yorkshire Police, Northumbria Police and Kent Constabulary are all using the Mobitex network for real-time access to the Police National Computer (PNC) when out on patrol.
Officers from all four police forces can now run live PNC checks from in-vehicle computer terminals, giving them informa-tion where it's needed, when it's needed and, as has been proved by West Yorkshire Police, that includes traveling on the motorway at 70 miles per hour with no loss of communication or information. Officers now have access to a vast array Of PNC information - from where the checks take place. Information on stolen vehicles, registration details and vehicles involved in previous incidents can all be checked on-the-spot.
Cleveland moves ahead
A major reason for this improvement lies in the force's use of mobile data. Cleveland has been using Mobitex since 1993 and has now equipped over 100 vehicles, accoun-ting for some 200.000 transactions per week over the RAM Network. Mobitex is used for a variety of applications, including vehicle dispatch, status messaging and real-time access to the Police National Computer (PNC). RAM also provides live access to the Command and Control system and Crime Intelligence, Electoral Roll and Warrants databases, allowing real-time activity reporting and live incident log updates.
Speeding up dispatches
Information is transmitted over the Mobitex network directly to a touch screen MDT (mobile data terminal) from Petard Datax Ltd or an SGL touch screen PC in the officer's car using software from APD Communications. This solution also provides officers with two-way messaging capabilities for car-to-car communication and between equipped vehicles and the Force Communications Center. The latest release of application software allows units to provide a full sequel to any incident dispatched via MDT.
More information per query
In one transaction, officers can now access multiple databases from the patrol vehicle. Live PNC access provides vital information on vehicles and registration details, allowing instant checks on numerous aspects of vehicle ownership. Officers can also view local information on vehicles, names and outstanding warrants. Responses take seconds and lack of radio congestion means more officers are making more checks. This has helped reveal traffic violations and has led to the detention of more offenders.
Mobitex on the beat
Activity reporting has also been automated. Traditionally, forms were completed manually by officers to record major activity within 15 minute periods. However, forms were often completed during breaks, at shift end, or in a batch. This left considerable scope for inaccurate reporting and led to unreliable data.
Activity is now measured when it happens, recorded via status codes and transmitted, around the clock, straight to the Command and Control system. Results are current and force management now has accurate activity reports, plus information on activity based costings by incident code. This recorded data is used in resource and financial business planning models for the Policing Plan and provides accurate evidence of performance for HMIC inspection.
Cleveland is now investigating Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) for better visibility of police operations. AVL provides effective management of resources and has a positive impact on officer safety. Access to the Phoenix National Criminal Records System and more local databases are also planned as is mobile data for foot patrol officers.
Lightening the load
Inspector Mick Dixon of West Yorkshire says, "Using mobile data patrols get straight through to the PNC and receive the answer to each vehicle check in around in around 10 seconds."
Another U.K. police force using Mobitex is Kent Constabulary, which has equipped police vehicles in the Medway area with Mobile Radio Ltd's MCC (Mobile Communications Computer). The MCC communicates with the MARS gateway software pack age at the Rochester Control room. Inspector Peter Deare of Kent Constabulary comments, "We believe that mobile data will prove to be invaluable in releasing suppressed demand. Information such as the identity of vehicle keepers and other data valuable in establishing lawful possession is available on-the-spot. It will also assist in revealing traffic violations."
As Superintendent Mitford of Northumbria Police comments, "We are using PNC access over RAM in one of our busiest command areas; in essence it makes much more effective use of officers' time."
First fire service
It was the operational need for highly reliable data transmission which led Hampshire Fire & Rescue to choose Mobitex for communication. Key criteria included coverage, response times and network capacity for as many as 4.000 mobilizations per month. In phase one of the project, Mobitex is being used as the primary bearer for data transmission between the Command and Control Center and Fire Stations in most locations.
"Error-free, consistently reliable communication is an absolute must for our operation. We considered other wireless data networks but concluded that RAM was best placed to handle both the mobile and fixed elements of the project," comments Chris Horswell, Information Services Development Manager for Hampshire Fire and Rescue. "On the cost side, we know in advance exactly how much we are paying per month and we expect that the RAM Network will prove to be excellent value for money."
The 5 year contract with RAM forms part of a significant project with Securicor Dopra, who acted as Systems Integrators for the project. The RAM Network interfaces with Securicor Dopra's Firecat 2000 Command and Control system.
More information at the scene
Phase two of the project involves using Mobitex for transmitting live incident information from the Control Center directly to the fire appliances. By using wireless data communication, the brigade can now send its crews a much greater volume of detailed information than was previously possible. Detailed information on hazardous chemicals, building floor plans, map references and information on the location of hydrants can all be transmitted via the RAM Network, along with information on how to reach an address.
As in the police applications, the availability of timely and relevant information at the scene of the incident increases the efficiency with which fire fighters can deal with the situation. Having additional information on local conditions and hazards that was previously not available can also save lives and prevent injuries. Given these compelling advantages, Mobitex will undoubtedly become as prevalent among British fire fighters as it now is among their colleagues in the police services.
Advances in Sweden
Maintaining radio silence is critical in many police surveillance operations. Yet, while tailing a suspected narcotics trafficker, for example, police officers still need to communicate with each other and access central information sources. For Swedish police officers, Mobitex has solved this dilemma.
"For officers who need this capability, Mobitex is invaluable," says captain Leif Cederberg of the Västmanland County Police, which serves Västerås, Sweden's fifth largest city. Leif has been involved in implementing various Mobitex solutions for the Swedish police since 1988 and has most recently been working with the deployment of mobile workstations for police officers under a program initiated by the National Police Board.
Sweden's National Police Board began a project in July 1995 to equip more than 800 Swedish police in all of the country's 40 districts with mobile workstations. Today, deployment is complete, with some 400 police units using Mobitex and an equal number using systems based on cellular communications.
"Mobitex is the best solution," says senior officer Lennart Axelsson at the National Police Board. "Coverage is better. Mobitex is more reliable and less expensive than cellular."
Some units have been equipped with GPS receivers for automatic vehicle location. This helps police dispatchers, but operative command in most situations requires more than knowledge of vehicle locations. The commanding officer must assess the situations to which the police must respond and dispatch the officers and units most appropriate for the incident.
"One of the most valuable functions is that alerts from the SOS Alarm Centers are automatically forwarded to us," says Captain Leif Cederberg. "Often when an accident occurs, the police are on their way to the scene as soon as the call goes out to the ambulance. Coordinating communications in this way saves time and can be a life saver."
"Older Mobitex installations with simple control panels are much better in certain cases," notes Leif. "Police officers responding to accidents and other emergencies want to be able to press a single button to indicate that they are responding, at the scene, etc. Not every officer needs a PC in the police car."
Everyone agrees, however, that wireless data communication allows police officers to perform their work more efficiently and to spend more time among the public where their services are needed. Mobitex is already a national standard for Swedish police, and the National Police Board intends to continue deploying Mobitex technology so that it may be used by police patrolling on foot.