Friday, February 24, 2012

These days, when Philadelphia police officers respond to robberies and shootings, they might learn that video surveillance from the scene has already been pulled from cameras in the area.

Officers in neighborhoods known for car thefts, meanwhile, might be handed an automatic license-plate reader that can scan thousands of vehicles within a few hours.

And in the future, the half hour it might take to conduct database searches for criminal records and other information could be cut to 30 seconds.

It hasn't happened overnight, but the Philadelphia Police Department is making advances in updating its technology. Philadelphia is now one of about 10 cities in the country with a Real-Time Crime Center, a 24-hour hub of video surveillance, databases, and other resources. The center is funded largely with federal money.

The center, which went to 24-hour staffing last month, was developed as a way for officers to assist investigators from a tactical perspective by quickly accessing information about crimes, identifying potential suspects, and even heading off crimes...