Sheriff Mark Hunter says technology, better use of resources will be used in Sheriff's Office


The North Florida Herald Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2011
Continuing budget cuts are bringing law enforcement changes to Columbia County, including Fort White, and the Sheriff is focusing on technology to make the transition.
About 70 people gathered at the Fort White Community Center on Thursday, June 23 for a multimedia presentation by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office that focused, in part, on the new technology the Sheriff's is embracing.
The meeting seemed more like a family reunion than a "traveling road show" as Columba County Sheriff's Public Information Officer Sgt. Ed Seifert liked to call it.
After a light dinner and heavy chatter, Sheriff Mark Hunter talked business.
With fewer funds, Hunter said he made the logical move to revamp communications through a new technology, the SmartCOP computer software by CTS America, a systems development company.
According to the CTS America Website, the SmartCOP is a multi-agency system that streamlines the call taking and dispatch process by allowing for rapid data entry, setting call priorities and making resource recommendations.
The new technology, along with a 911 conversion call plan and new radios, cost about $2 million of grants from the county.
Still, the benefits outweigh the costs, according to Thursday's presentation.
Instead of 9-10 pages of handwritten reports that take days to process, Seifert said, SmartCOP sends an e-mail from the crime scene to the sergeant in a matter of minutes.
"That means more efficiency and more road time," Seifert said.
This is crucial for the 135 paid deputies who patrol Columbia County, an area that encompasses nearly 70,000 residents over 797 square miles.
Hunter now had deputies serving multiple duties.
For instance, a patrol deputy may also be a rescue diver and a member of the SWAT team. Even the police dogs are multipurpose with abilities to sniff narcotics, and trail and apprehend suspects.
Hunter is also promising a multipurpose district office in Fort White that would consolidate the tax collector's, the county clerk's and the sheriff's office under one roof.
"If we don't have the building by year-end, in December, I am committed to providing the manpower and the assets," Hunter said.
Other technological changes include a crime map that Hunter plans to implement within the next six weeks.
He described the crime map much like a weather forecaster illustrates the weather. Crimes density will be displayed like thunderstorms or scattered showers, depending on where crimes occur and how often.
So not only law enforcement but also citizens will be able to see any patterns that arise when the "crime element moves around."
For the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, the number one concern is victim crime, followed by drugs and community networking, Hunter said.
In tune with Hunter's concern for victim crime are the statistics that show his agency's crime solve rate at 33.5 percent- a figure that he touted as being about 10 percent higher than the state crime solve rates.
"We're just gonna keep on working and try to make it gooder and gooder," Hunter said.

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