New use for tablet computers: Fighting crime

Police departments in Delaware will soon have a new high-tech crime-fighting tool. A handful of bureaus are part of a yearlong pilot program to test a system that allows officers to use tablet computers, instead of a pen and paper, to record evidence at crime scenes.

The new system should help reduce desk work and create a more secure chain of custody for physical evidence.

Lt. Christopher Workman of the Elsmere Police Department said that now, when officers go out to investigate a crime, they carry a digital camera, a voice recorder and their trusty pen and paper. When they head back to the station, they have to upload all that data and transcribe their notes into a computer to get it into the police database. With the new tablets, Workman hopes that will redundancy will be a thing of the past.

“This system gathers all that information on one tablet and automatically sends it back,” Workman said. “Then when we return to the station, it automatically downloads that into the main server.”

The tablets will be equipped with cameras and voice recorders. Workman says the automatic uploading will help his small force of officers get back onto the streets faster.

“It’ll stop the need for repetitiveness and help the officers get done quicker,” Workman said.

The new system should also help streamline the chain of custody for evidence, which is key for cases that make it to court.

The tablet computers will require officers to type in passwords to log on. New evidence boxes will use fingerprint scanners to make sure only the officer who put the evidence in, or an authorized person in the evidence room, will be able to access the evidence.

Delaware State University police have been helping to develop the system with a Virginia-based company and the state Department of Homeland Security. After the yearlong trial at a handful of Delaware police departments, adjustments will be made before a nationwide roll-out.

Workman said he expects to start using the new system in the next month or so.

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