This article explains how the East Orange Police Department (New Jersey) used a geographical technology called the Tactical Automatic Vehicle Locator (TAC-AVL) in helping to reduce the city’s crime rate in 2008 to a level it had not experienced in more than 25 years.
TAC-AVL is a real-time geographic positioning system (GPS) tool that provides commanders with a real-time map of the city and displays all patrol car locations. This allows commanders to determine whether patrol vehicles are at the appropriate place at the appropriate time. TAC-AVL is accessible on all computers at department headquarters and in supervisors’ cars. Commanding officers can use TAC-AVL to ensure that their weekly and daily tactical crime plans are in conjunction with the current crime problem and that they are followed. TAC-AVL enables a supervisor to see the type of call to which an officer is responding, how long the officer has been on the call, the result of the call, and whether nearby zones are understaffed. In addition to using TAC-AVL, the department created a set of Impact, Resource, Response, and Conditions cars. These cars are not assigned to patrol a specific zone; instead, they remain at a home base and respond to backup calls. These units are sent into the neighborhoods that need them as backup or as a first responder to a call when a primary zone car is at another call. This strategy ensures zone integrity, alleviates call “stacking” (one car answering call after call), decreases response time, increases officer effectiveness, and decreases officer stress and fatigue. Under this system, no zone is ever left vulnerable to an influx of crime because patrol units are busy in other areas. 2 figures and 9 notes