Meeting the Challenge: Ventura County’s New Crime-Fighting Tool — iCop

CSAC is producing a series of videos and blog postings highlighting California Counties’ best practices as part of National County Government Month. The programs we are spotlighting are recipients of our annual Challenge Awards, which recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find new and effective ways of providing programs and services to their citizens.  The Challenge Awards provide California’s 58 counties an opportunity to share their best practices with counties around the state and nation. The programs being highlighted are recipients of the 2013 awards. The Call for Entries for the 2014 CSAC Challenge Awards has been distributed; the entry deadline is June 27, 2014. 

To review a video about Ventura County’s iCop program, click here.

In the inner sanctum of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Offices, there’s a display case that houses numerous department artifacts dating back to the 1800s: photographs, badges and handwritten incident logs help tell the department’s storied past. Captain Chris Lathrop likes to stop and take in the department’s rich history. But Captain Lathrop’s focus is in the future – and one mobile application in particular that is making a big difference in how the department fights crime.

The mobile app developed in-house by Ventura County’s IT Department is called iCop – and it’s been a great asset to Sheriff’s Department deputies and investigators.

Believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, this mobile application interfaces with the County’s criminal justice system, allowing officers to securely search by person, address or vehicle. Results include demographics, mug shots, tattoo images, warrant information, booking history, calls for services, arrest reports and property reports. Information is returned to the field in a matter of 20 seconds or less — as compared to the hours or days it previously took.

In addition, iCop allows officers in the field to securely submit information collected during interviews to the County system. This information is instantly accessible to all users. The app also allows officers to take photos and attach them to the field interview record. Timely information is available – and accessible – with just a few taps from the finger. What used to take hours now literally takes seconds.

Prior to iCop, multiple inquiries needed to be made through multiple systems to try and find the appropriate information. When you consider the department’s Records Management System contains about 5 million records, you can begin to see how time consuming a search could be. Now the entire system can be searched from a single point of information related to any person, vehicle or place contained in department records.

“Having all this information about a person you never had before gives our officers an opportunity to dig deeper into a person’s background and deeper into the circumstances of a stop,” explains Captain  Lathrop. “It gives deputies immediate information they can act on and make better decisions as a result of that.”

And iCop is working. The department has received numerous success stories from officers apprehending individuals who otherwise would have slipped through the cracks.

“The deputies love it; they use it on a daily basis,” continues Captain Lathrop. “On average, iCop inquiries average about 16,000 per month and increases incrementally. … I get stopped on a weekly basis by deputies telling me how much they love the application and how vital the information is …”

ICop works on iPhones and iPads, which have become regular crime-fighting tools for the Sheriff’s Department. Because the app and its information are proprietary, the department also had to develop its own “store” where users could retrieve updates.

The mobile app has piqued the interest of other local law enforcement jurisdictions, particularly those in Ventura County. The County is currently working on an arrangement to allow access to the iCop system.  In time, every law enforcement officers in the County may be tied into iCop.

Who knows, perhaps that display case of historic artifacts will some day in the distant future house an iPhone with the first iCop app on it.

About: David Liebler:
David Liebler is the Deputy Director of Public Affairs and Member Services for the California State Association of Counties. He can be reached at dliebler.at.counties.org.

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