Schenectady police test Transfinder’s Patrolfinder app and like it

SCHENECTADY — Technology currently being tested by city police can streamline the way officers patrol neighborhoods while at the same time making sure their safety and that of the residents is even more of a priority.

The Patrolfinder software from Schenectady-based Transfinder allows patrol officers and police commanders in the field and at the station to see in color and real time areas they’ve responded to for service or emergency calls as well as if a fellow patrol officer is nearby.

“This is an empowerment tool that will allow police to better serve the community, the community to participate in their own safety, and officers to be given more time in their day to make that happen,” said Police Chief Eric Clifford Tuesday at Proctors, where he was joined by the mayor, the head of Transfinder and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

Clifford talked about some landlord-tenant disputes, merchants that make themselves more prone to crime because of the way they operate their businesses, and those individuals who seeming to call 9-1-1 for everything.
“This practice led to an inequitable distribution of police services with some streets never seeing a police car drive by,” he said, describing it as a situation where “calls for services were akin to a tail wagging a dog.”
“Meanwhile, our expectations of police officers kept going up,” he continued, “so we tried to figure out how we can empower our officers in their workday by reducing their workload, and that became our highest priority. How could we use technology to provide information to them that will help them make decisions, help them police their assigned zones in a more equitable and safe manner for officers and for their community.”
The police chief also lamented that, in part due to high call volumes and staff shortages, “crime and quality of life violations” such as complaints about things like speeding, litter, noise and fireworks continue to plague Schenectady because police often travel from call to call, sometimes outside of their assigned patrol zone, leaving them little or no time to get to know people who live and work in the area they are assigned to serve and protect.
The end result is that residents are often vexed by longer wait times when it comes to getting a police response about low-level nuisance issues and the safety of police officers becomes an issue, said the chief.
“Even during year after year reductions in crime, our residents’ sense of feeling safe was affected by those smaller level crimes, ones that we just didn’t have time to get to,” he said.
That led to meetings between police brass and Transfinder executives, said Clifford, where they discussed finding technology “to help officers and at the same time improve community relations to help build a sense of safety within each neighborhood.”
For three months, the department used Patrolfinder as part of a test pilot program to guide how it patrolled one of its zones with the goal of driving down every street at least once in 24 hours” Clifford said.
Transfinder CEO Antonio Civitella said the app, which can be used by patrol and bike officers on a tablet or phone, will also help police determine areas that they need to focus on and shuts down when an officer is not on patrol.

“Patrolfinder will go a long way in assisting the police department’s efforts to be more transparent and responsive to the community,” he said. “Residents one day will see how often their street was patrolled and it keeps police accountable but also keeps the community well informed.”
He said in the future residents will be able to create their own incident reports for low level offenses.
Mayor Gary McCarthy called the technology “leading edge” and “hopefully world changing.” Schenectady is the first to use it. The city is in negotiations about the cost of the software.
“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 the services that we provide,” said McCarthy.
Santabarbara, whose district includes Schenectady, said that “harnessing this technology across our city will help officers work more efficiently to keep our neighborhoods more safe.”

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