During his keynote to kick off Computerworld's Storage Networking World conference here on Tuesday, Jim Onalfo, deputy commissioner and CIO of the New York City Police Department, said city law enforcement personnel would be crippled without the help of IT.
"We can arrest [perpetrators] physically, but we can't hold them if IT is not working, because we have a built-in [service level agreement] that says you have to release them if they're not arraigned in 24 hours," said Onalfo.
Onalfo, who is determined to keep the 51,000-person police force equipped with cutting-edge technology, said the department is in the process of replacing laptops that were installed in squad cars two years ago.
He did acknowledge that New York's police officers don't welcome all technology advances with open arms. Many are resisting talk of implementing a GPS system that keeps track of on-duty patrolmen, he said. Although the system is designed to augment alert systems and improve response times to crimes, Onalfo said that some officers are concerned about privacy issues related to the use of GPS technology.
Onalfo said IT upgrades have included an 18-month effort to create a unified disaster recovery system among 75 police precincts, 10 transit buildings and five courthouses. "Of all the things we did [in restructuring IT], this is probably the most important thing, because if they went down, they could not function," he added.
Onalfo also credits technology for playing a big role in helping the city significantly lower its homicide rate. New York's annual homicide rate has shrunk to about 500 today from 2,200 in 1993, when work on transforming IT systems began, he said.
The real jewel of the NYPD's IT resurgence is its $40 million Real-Time Crime Center, Onalfo said. The center includes a data warehouse of information about crime stored in an IBM DB2 database. The database holds 15 years' worth of data that was previously stored on paper, in file boxes and in separate databases in multiple locations.
"If you look at people who commit most crimes, they commit crimes over and over again. If you have this data available and can get it quickly, you have a good chance to catch them quickly," he added.
Still, he said, there are many more ways IT can help make policing easier and more effective. He noted that New York is in the process of creating a citywide satellite phone network to ensure that city officials and public workers can maintain contact in case of an emergency.