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Thinkstream and the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office

Written by James Careless

Lots of useful police databases exist. They are primed with the right information to help a patrol officer apprehend a perp randomly stopped during a roadside check. However, if the officer can’t get access to this information in his car, then these databases simply don’t matter. Without access to information that justifies holding the perp, he’ll simply be allowed to drive away.

This is why Thinkstream’s portfolio of police software—collectively referred to as its Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS)—can be a suspect stopper and lifesaver for patrol officers. ICJS ensures that any time a patrol officer queries a license tag or driver’s license over his wireless in-car laptop computer, his query is automatically checked against hundreds of police databases. This includes the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database and public criminal records from every state, county, and municipality in the country.

The result: Within moments, the patrol officer’s query is answered with detailed warrant information, past convictions, mug shots, and whether the person is on any terrorist and sexual predator watch lists. Moreover, if the person in the car is potentially armed and dangerous, the officer gets advance warning before they approach the vehicle. One last point: The same Thinkstream data that can be accessed through patrol officers mobile terminals is also available to them at their desktop computers or through a handheld wireless PDA.

It’s for reasons like this that more than 100 police and sheriff departments across the United States are using Thinkstream. One of them is the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office in Monroe, LA. It serves about 150,000 residents in a territory measuring 633 square miles in northeastern Louisiana.

With 80 patrol cars on the road, having access to timely information is of vital importance to OPSO officers and the general public alike. Unfortunately, before the Parish installed Thinkstream—and before it was able to outfit its cars with laptop computers, thanks to a DHS grant—anything beyond local data was hard to come by.

“One of the main problems we had was not being able to check warrants from other agencies without having to call them on the phone,” said Captain Bobby Baker, head of communications for the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office. “But that’s changed now. When you check on a license plate from the car, the Thinkstream system checks with other agencies for warrants without you even having to ask.”

To say the least, this capability can make a big difference out on the street. Take the time that an OPSC patrol officer got a hunch that something about an approaching Louisiana-plated car wasn’t quite right. He wasn’t sure what, so he pulled the car over and checked the driver’s license. Thinkstream reported that the driver was wanted in South Carolina for vehicular homicide. The officer arrested him on the spot.

Thinkstream’s Elements

Thinkstream is a portfolio of six software applications; each one targets a different aspect of law enforcement. Thinkstream Patrol is the wireless tool that provides officers with fast access to vital information, such as warrants, violent criminal history, stolen vehicle reports, DMV photos and NCIC mug shots. This information can be received on mobile laptop computers or wireless PDAs.

A case in point: Using Thinkstream Patrol, an officer learned that the plate owner of the stopped car was listed as missing by NCIC. After questioning the driver, it was discovered that the missing person was living in a house nearby. Occupants of the residence had been investigated before this for drug trafficking. The investigation led to the arrest of an individual in charge of a large illegal drug-dealing operation in the area and the removal of the missing person from the NCIC database.

Thinkstream Desktop Detective makes it easy to investigate suspects in more detail. Using Desktop Detective, officers can target elements beyond name, driver’s license or Social Security numbers; such as by address, demographics or distinguishing features. The result can be a faster resolution to the investigation.

Next, Thinkstream Dispatch lets dispatchers provide patrol officers with detailed information from multiple sources quickly and efficiently. In Baker’s own jurisdiction, a suspect arrested at a domestic dispute in West Monroe turned out to be also wanted for armed robbery in Mississippi. Without Thinkstream to find and deliver this data, chances are, the perp would have dodged that warrant.

Thinkstream Incident Reporting lets officers electronically enter and manage arrest information. Because the data is entered into their laptops, it goes straight into their department’s records. The result is faster, more accurate arrest filing at the time the arrest actually take place.

Meanwhile, Thinkstream E-Justice is designed to chop away at the paper trail between criminal justice and law enforcement. It does this by interfacing directly existing Case and Records Management Systems (RMS), to allow electronic file transfers of criminal justice documents between the courts and the police.

Thinkstream Incident Reporting enables secure, paperless submission and management of arrest information from any Web-connected computer. This system is designed to save officers valuable time with electronic preparation of the usual time-consuming reports of incidents and arrests.

Finally, Thinkstream Judicial Case Management helps judges make informed rulings by pulling together all relevant historical information from law enforcement, the district attorney, and the clerks of court. This software module aggregates existing criminal histories into a searchable electronic data set that assists judges in gathering and analyzing information and gives them fast electronic access to case details and criminal profiles. Better case management means better sentencing and speedier justice in the court room.

Making It on the Street

Thinkstream sounds like an intelligent product for law enforcement. But how well does it perform on the street, when seconds count and lives are at risk? The answer is very well indeed, at least in Ouachita Parish. “We’re really happy with Thinkstream,” said Baker. “It has really assisted us in doing our job better, thanks to its link to NCIC. This capability has also improved officer safety: When you run a license tag in Thinkstream, the first thing it tells the patrol officer is whether the licensed driver is potentially dangerous.”

Thinkstream has similar words of praise posted on its testimonials Web page. “Thinkstream has taken a small town like Tickfaw and moved us into the 21st century—we’re loving it,” wrote Police Chief Jimmy Sparacello of Tickfaw, LA. “It’s only been a couple of weeks and we’re already seeing more arrests. I’m tickled to death about it—Thinkstream has been nothing but good for us.”

“The department’s partnership with Thinkstream has been a boost to the officers in the area of preventing and solving crime,” wrote Sheriff’s Detective Tom Myrick of Bossier Parish, LA. “Accessing the information through Thinkstream’s Desktop Detective software, officers are able to verify information on a suspect more quickly, which in turn means they’re able to solve more crimes and expedite arrests more efficiently.”

Finally, it bears noting that Thinkstream—which has headquarters in Baton Rouge, LA—didn’t just stand by as the New Orleans Police Department struggled with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Instead, Thinkstream loaned its software to the NOPD, while the Lafourche Parish, LA Sheriff’s Department loaned four laptop computers and wireless data cards.

“The loan of the laptops, along with the wireless cards and Thinkstream Inc. software, were welcomed wholeheartedly by the New Orleans officers,” wrote Captain Terry Lyle of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Department. “There are people who don’t belong there, and without background checks, [the NOPD] had no way of knowing who the bad guys were. They’re back in the game now.”

Providing quick access to multiple databases is good news for patrol officers, their departments, and their public at large. Judging by the testimonials, Thinkstream does this very well.

James Careless is a freelance writer who specializes in first responder communications issues. He can be reached at jcareless5000@yahoo.com.

Published in Law and Order, Jul 2006

Rating : Not Yet Rated


Comments

Comment on This Article

Lieutenant -- Ouachita Parish Sheriffs Department

By Marc Mashaw

This is an amazing tool for law enforcement officers!

Submitted Sep 20 at 11:14 PM

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