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Schenectady debuting new police technology “Patrolfinder”

Schenectady officials are launching software designed to enhance communications between police officers and increase productivity.

“Patrolfinder” has been seven years in the making, researched and developed by Schenectady-based Transfinder. It’s being promoted as a cutting-edge software designed to increase equitable policing, improve department transparency, increase officer safety and efficiency, and ultimately make the city safer.

Patrolfinder enables patrol officers and administrators to observe where and when patrols have occurred, manage patrol zones and see a live map of patrol officers. Administrators can analyze police coverage and observe real-time patrols.

Police Chief Eric Clifford says the software was rolled out for testing in one area of the city in November. As officers used it, he says they were able to give feedback to developers who continued to tweak Patrolfinder.

“Right now, if you call for a police car, we send a police car," said Clifford. "What we want to do is we want to send police cars on high priority calls, the lower priorities, the ones that have time that they can wait, we want to set expectations with the caller, that a police car will be there within the next couple hours. And then that will allow the officers to patrol their neighborhoods. And when they arrive on that scene, they'll stop and handle that call for service. Again, it's all about setting expectations. And I see that efficiency is going to help reduce the toll on the officers, whether it will reduce the calls for service, that's where identifying problem properties, and appropriately addressing those problems to cut down on future calls. That's where it's going to reduce call volume.”

Eventually a web portal will be opened where some data will be available for citizens to view. Based in Schenectady, Transfinder offers bus-tracking and routing technology for school districts and municipalities.

President and CEO Antonio Civitella says Patrolfinder uses a map of "Patrol Points," located along city streets, to indicate where an officer needs to patrol. When an officer patrols and passes through that point, the map updates to show the area has been patrolled and will automatically determine when the next patrol should occur. When each zone should be covered can be individually set based on data used to determine what areas need more of a police presence. He says officers appreciate the fact that software can be used on tablets, laptops and cell phones. He says it is ever-evolving, so it can be tailored to the department’s needs.

“The most important thing that I want to emphasize is its technology," Civitella said. "These are young men and women that are patrol officers and their their use of technology, they want to be able to use technology to do a better job at their work.”

State Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara says Amsterdam police officials attended the Patrolfinder unveiling Tuesday at Proctors. The Democrat representing the 111th district hopes Schenectady will serve as a launchpad for the software.

“I'm hoping to see something like this deployed statewide, I'm hoping to bring it back up to the Capitol, I'm excited to be able to talk about this," said Santabarbara. "We need to continuously look at the way we serve our community, look at our police departments, work with them, find out what's working, find out what's not working, but also find solutions to help us improve.”

Mayor Gary McCarthy says Patrolfinder is "innovative and creative."

“This is locally grown talent," said McCarthy. "It's locally produced. And it's a partnership with a company here that has been extremely successful and our Schenectady police department. But this product as you see it today, and as it evolves over time, is going to add a higher level of effectiveness, a greater value for policing and the delivery of public service. And it's the level of accountability that will make the public and constituents that we serve, feel better about policing and the services that they request and that the services that we provide.“

Schenectady City Council President Marion Porterfield, also a Democrat, is interested in seeing how Patrolfinder operates in real time and how the technology overlaps with recently rolled out Axon body cameras.

“I'd like to see what it looks like at the end of maybe a couple months. You know, how well we did how it improved based on our prior way of doing patrol,” said Porterfield.

Clifford says Patrolfinder deployments cost the department $1200 each. The program goes live citywide this week.

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Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.