Risk analysis software gives Fla. city security boostThe software helps coordinate agencies and provide invaluable information about critical infrastructure
By Josh Poltilove
The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA, Fla. — Cpl. Doug Pasley stared at his digital map of the city and clicked on City Hall, schools and other targets considered "critical infrastructure."
All of Tampa's ongoing calls for law enforcement service were mapped on his computer screen, allowing him to determine trends and find hot spots where crime was occurring or likely to occur.
Though the information primarily is used for homeland security, law enforcement will enlist it to plan and protect along the route of the annual Gasparilla parade on Saturday.
"It's really helping us keep the pulse on the parade, on those crowds," Pasley said.
A U.S. Department of Justice grant brought the technology, known as Risk Analysis Center, to police in 2003. In past years, information was generated on computers, but the technology still required physical maps.
An upgrade this year maps the information on computer screens.
"It's just a quicker way to do what we were doing manually," Pasley said. "It's more taking us out of the computer realm and into the e-realm."
From an operations center near the parade route, representatives from several agencies — including police, Coast Guard, FBI, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement — will monitor radio traffic and the computer system, which will be displayed on a 4-by-4-foot screen.
Typically, several hundred incidents require law enforcement attention on the route on Gasparilla day. They range from arrests to medical emergencies to lost children. All events will be tracked on the screen.
If all goes well, the technology's value might not be that obvious to residents, said Pasley, who has been with the department for 24 years.
"But if it goes bad, it can help us better evacuate people," said Pasley, a threat-risk manager for the Tampa area's Urban Area Security Initiative. "It can help us better mitigate other problems that are going on."
Each day, the Risk Analysis Center is used in eight Tampa Bay area counties, including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco.
The program lists addresses, security levels and other information about properties considered critical infrastructure, including military bases, chemical storage and distribution facilities, banks and schools.
There are nearly 75 such spots near the parade route, which runs along Bayshore Boulevard and into downtown. Gasparilla itself is considered critical infrastructure because it draws hundreds of thousands of spectators.
"The No. 1 piece of critical infrastructure is people," Pasley said. "Keeping them safe is our No. 1 priority."