Crime-fighting Technologies Help Improve Safety in Highland Park

Highland Park, Michigan, is no stranger to urban challenges in a post-industrial world.

Emerging from the economic downturn, the small city within the borders of Detroit is in the midst of re-invention as a municipality under state financial control. While currently pegged one of America’s most dangerous cities by data sites like Neighborhood.com, Highland Park police are leading the charge to combat crime, improve community safety, and make the city a place where people want to live and do business.

“We have some things in place now that are helping to deploy our staff in the best way,” says Highland Park Police Chief Kevin Coney. “Lots of people think change is bad, but in this case, the majority of our officers have been accepting of solutions that will help them do their jobs.”

In January 2014, Highland Park police joined more than 120 law enforcement agencies with a state of the art, cloud based incident reporting system from Core Technology—a Lansing-based public safety and criminal justice software company. Department officials say the solutions will facilitate reporting, tracking, information and data sharing and other communication capabilities for more efficient, effective policing.

“Core’s systems allow us to be in the new millennium in terms of policing and law enforcement,” says Coney. “We have technological capabilities now that we didn’t have before, and thank our mayor and city council for supporting the technological advancement of our department.”

Forward thinking

The adoption of Core Technology’s Law Enforcement solution suite, department officials say, is pivotal to re-building the safety and security of a city severely wounded by decades of economic upheaval.

Once a city of 50,000 people in the early 20th-century, Highland Park today has about 10,500 residents, with 46 percent living in poverty. Like Detroit, Highland Park rose with the auto industry, with Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation ensuring the city’s prosperity for decades.

But things changed. Ford ceased Highland Park operations in 1970s, and Chrysler moved to the suburbs in the 1990s. By the 21st century, the city was a landscape of abandoned homes and shuttered businesses. Bills went unpaid and essential services were dismantled. The Highland Park Police Department disbanded in 2000, and left the 2.9 square mile city in the hands of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department.

Then, in 2007, policing came back. And while the need was reaffirmed for this key service, the challenges were immense.

Vehicles needed to be maintained or swapped for a newer make or model. Systems and procedures needed overhaul. Facilities and equipment needed repair and maintenance. And at every turn was the looming issue of funding.

“Basically we didn’t have any,” says Charles Lackey, director of technology and auxiliary officer for Highland Park. “When you’re starting any entity of any type, you have basic needs. We had to make do and come up with shortcuts to be an effective police department.”

Investing in safety

While Highland Park faces considerable financial challenges, residents, business leaders and state and city employees are invested in bringing back safety and hope to the proud and historic city. The police department, Lackey says, is instrumental to those efforts.

“When the Police Department first reinstated, we did most of our transmissions via radio,” says Lackey. “We also had a couple computers, a Word template to do reports, and we had no archiving. It was a step up from a typewriter.”

Now, seven years later, Highland Park has moved from a completely manual process with paper forms and files to a sophisticated digital system. Police vehicles are equipped to connect with Michigan’s Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) and I-SERVICES. Officers and administrators can do crime mapping, run statistics, and review, file and transmit reports through Core’s Talon Suite.”

All this was incredibly important,” says Lackey of the advanced law enforcement systems secured through forfeiture funds. “We’ve seen an uptick of arrests and violations since the information is now readily available to the officers on the street—the very people who need it most.”

Lackey says, too, that the mapping, records, and incident management systems from Core enable the department to “talk” to nearby jurisdictions and most any agency in the state.

“It makes communication instant—from messaging to sharing statistics,” says Lackey. “For instance, we’ve been out on the street and encountered someone without an ID. We can pull up a picture and see who they are.”

Lackey knows the plus side of instant information sharing, particularly when it comes to policing across jurisdictions. In Highland Park, he says, criminals don’t necessarily distinguish Detroit from Highland Park and vice versa.

“We have some areas where one side of the street is Detroit, and the other side is Highland Park,” says Lackey. “Information sharing gives us a way for the right hand to know what the left is doing.”

Now, Lackey says, officers can dispatch information and assess whether vehicles or suspects have been involved in other criminal activity. They can also receive alerts from other agencies and prepare for any incidents coming their way.

“In one case, we were able to determine that a vehicle driving recklessly and crossing over from Detroit had been involved in an armed robbery,” says Lackey. “When we apprehended the driver and other suspects, we saw they were also involved in carjacking. We wouldn’t have known that if it wasn’t for our new systems.”

In another stolen vehicle incident, officers located and recovered a vehicle within eight minutes of talking to the victim. Details provided by the victim, Lackey says, led them to pull up hot spots on the mapping system and to concentrate patrol efforts in that area.

Officers, too, find themselves safer on-the-job with the critical background information mined through CORE. For instance, officers can be alerted to take different precautions when approaching a suspect, particularly when a history of guns or weapons is detected.

“A lot of criminals are repeat offenders,” says Lackey. “And since it’s not their first time around the block, you can get a wealth of information on a person through these computerized systems without having to dig it out manually.”

Overall, Lackey says, Core solutions have made solving crimes 10 times faster—simply because officers receive instant information and can electronically file reports from their vehicle rather than the station. Discreet mobile systems for undercover officers can also prevent tipping off suspects to surveillance.

“You gotta do what you gotta do and work with what you got,” says Lackey of the years before contracting with Core. “Now we don’t have to move forward with a aluminum foil and rubber band system but with a state-of-the-art system that allows us to deploy resources anywhere we need to go.”

About Core Technology

Established in 1981, Core Technology provides specialized software solutions for the criminal justice and law enforcement communities.  Core’s solutions are available to local, regional, state and national agencies that want to access, share and exchange information, as well as communicate more effectively with each other. Core offers their solutions via desktop, in car or handheld devices.