Grove City Record

Information age isn't leaving city's police officers behind

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Chief Steve Robinette said he remembers when the Grove City Division of Police didn't have any computers.

"I remember when things as early as pagers and cell phones were seen as somewhat frivolous," he said. "When this building (at 3360 Park St.) was built, we had a darkroom in the basement."

Today, not only are there computers in the police station itself, they're in the officers' patrol cars.

"We have to be plugged into (technology)," Robinette said. "It is in every aspect of what we do. I can't think of really any section of this department where we don't use it for investigations or passing information or conducting our business."

That includes the license plate readers and cameras in patrol vehicles that connect to the state's Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS), indicating whether a vehicle might be stolen or if its driver has a suspended license.

Other examples include traffic survey equipment that tracks speed, time and number of cars passing through a location; social media for sending out crime alerts; and software that maps crime data.

In December, Grove City became the first municipality in Ohio to contract with Smart911, a national private safety service that allows residents to create safety profiles containing crucial household information, such as residents' medication allergies or whether there's a dog on the property, that they want to emergency responders to know.

"We're in the information age," said Capt. Jeff Pearson. "It's all good information. Now it's at our fingertips."

Robinette said a response to an uptick in crime historically meant more officers. In the digital age, police work is about getting the right information to the right people.

"Now, we don't necessarily think about throwing more people at the problem," Robinette said. "In a lot of areas, technology has made us more efficient."

The department uses CrimeView Dashboard, software that gathers all the department's crime data and maps it. From there, the department adapts its patrols to deter crime and catch criminals in the act.

"It's a really good way to communicate internally and be where you need to be," Pearson said. "Random patrol gives you random results."

The department has also been on Facebook and Twitter since 2012.

"Facebook is probably our best method for reaching the community," Pearson said. "The main reason we got into it -- there were so many people who were using Facebook to communicate. We just looked at it as a real good opportunity."

Robinette said social media has been a huge benefit.

"Through social media, you can track how often that information is shared," he said. "Oftentimes, we're reaching in excess of 25,000 people."

On Facebook, the department has close to 3,000 followers. Pearson said there have been cases in which the department was able to identify and eventually arrest suspects after posting crime alerts online, and the department's followers weighed in with tips, including a robbery that occurred Feb. 1 at Key Bank.

"That all started with getting that information out to the public," he said. "It's been a very good tool."

The division also is considering looking at using YouTube for public safety announcements.

"Right now, we're just researching it whether we're going to do it," Pearson said. "We like to be in front of stuff when it comes out."

More information is available on the city's website, grovecityohio.gov, or the police division's Facebook page, facebook.com/GroveCityOhioPolice.

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