17 Aug

Patrolfinder app nears rollout for Schenectady PD

From Your Schenectady / By Tyler Clemente / August 16, 2023

Big changes in local policing may be on the horizon with the upcoming rollout of the Patrolfinder app, developed by Schenectady-based company Transfinder in partnership with the city’s police department.

The app, designed to enable officers to quickly view and share information to a greater extent than traditional methods have allowed, will likely be officially released by the end of the summer, according to Transfinder CEO Antonio Civitella.

Since development began in January of this year, officers have tested an early version of the program in the field and presented Transfinder with their feedback. Among other results, the program, originally intended to be viewed on a tablet, is now integrated into a conventional web browser on computers in the officers’ vehicles for greater ease of use, Civitella said.

“We want to know, ‘Alright, was this correct?’ The most important thing is we want them to still be able to do their best job possible,” Civitella said. “Now we’re just in a feedback phase. It’s a give and take with what we’re doing.”

The final stage of development, according to Civitella, will integrate SPD’s crime data into the program, allowing it to automatically display information from the department’s CAD, or computer-aided dispatching system, in addition to manually logged notes.

From the driver’s seat, Patrolfinder at first seems like an ordinary street map of Schenectady. Between each city block lies a dot, green or red, depending on whether a patrol car has passed through that point in the last 24 hours. In the course of approaching each point, though, the software can pull up information specifically relating to that location, potentially including important details that might not otherwise have been passed along from one officer to another, said Sergeant Peter Montalto, SPD’s liaison for the program.

“So let’s say I worked the midnight shift and now the day shift comes on,” Montalto said. “If we didn’t speak, the information that I found out on midnight shift may not [reach] the day shift, but this software is going to show us as we move around in real time throughout the city what other officers have gathered.”

“It really should improve officer safety and help with crime reduction,” he continued. “We can post photos on our attention points, we can type comments, we can search. So it really helps the officers to dig deep into the information that we’ve gathered as a whole rather than just as individuals.”

The Patrolfinder program is the latest in a series of innovative purchases made by city police to improve public safety and transparency. In August of last year, local lawmakers approved a $4.5 million 10-year contract with Axon Enterprise, Inc. that included new dash and body cameras, license plate readers, and virtual-reality training software.

The department hopes the rollout of Patrolfinder will make a difference for both residents and police, according to Montalto. “I think it’ll help officers really give a more equal and equitable coverage of the city,” he said. “And people that may not have seen a police car on their street or interacted with the police officer might get that interaction. Maybe an officer wants to walk in an area that hasn’t been patrolled in months. They can see that now; before they would’ve had no idea. So really, I hope that it gets officers out there more in the community.”

Recruitment has also been a challenge for the department in recent years, Montalto said, and innovative tools like Patrolfinder may help to lessen the pressures of understaffing in the short term.

“We kind of have to do more with less,” he said. “We’re still getting the same call down, the same workload, but we may not have as many officers to do it. So this technology, I would say, is a way to make us more efficient and to be able to accomplish the goals that we want to with not as many officers.”

Although the long-term outcomes of Patrolfinder are yet uncertain, Montalto seemed consistent in his optimism. “It’s new technology,” he said. “I’ve been here since 2011, and I’ve never seen anything like it used here. I think it’s really valuable, and I hope that it does make a better relationship with the public and reduce crime. I hope it has an impact. That’s really what we’re looking for.”