Law Enforcement Data

Law Enforcement CartoonIn some areas, an additional data source includes data collected by law enforcement. In this case, data to support TIM performance measures are typically recorded by law enforcement officers at an incident scene. The method of law enforcement data capture at the scene of an incident varies widely across the nation and the process of using and fusing law enforcement data with other sources like TMC data can be a challenge. The use of law enforcement data takes a strong and active partnership arrangement between law enforcement and the DOT.

At the highest level of integration, the DOT and its law enforcement partners, typically the state police, utilize the same CAD software, which allows both agencies to reply on a single platform, with single data entry points, common definitions, and consistent application and usage. More often than not, however, the two agencies utilize a different software base and face a process of exporting data from one system into another system for analysis. While this export / import / analysis process can take some time to develop, the inclusion of additional data for a wider variety of incidents can provide a much deeper insight into the performance of a traffic incident management program.

One known problem with some law enforcement CAD data is that the required time elements of various steps in the incident timeline are not explicit fields, but rather data in free form text fields. This type of data can still be used and be valuable, but it requires more extensive parsing of the law enforcement data. This type of data parsing is also prone to failure if inconsistencies occur in the recording, such as using a date format of MM/DD/YY instead of MM/DD/YYYY or using a date format with dashes instead of slashes. Explicit data fields force conformance, which pays significant dividends in subsequent export and analysis routines.

An example of TIM performance data captured by law enforcement comes from the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP). The FHP uses a mobile crash report application in the field. In January 2011, the FHP implemented a new crash report that allowed FHP troopers to capture lanes blocked, as well as time-stamped information about incidents to report RCT and ICT. In April 2011, FHP added a secondary crash element to the report. The electronic crash form is shown in the figure below.

Florida Highway Patrol Electronic Crash FormFlorida Highway Patrol Electronic Crash Form

While the approaches used by law enforcement to capture incident data vary, an innovative example comes from the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Traffic and Criminal Software (TraCS). The TraCS program is an initiative by the Iowa DOT to collect data from law enforcement at the scene of a motor vehicle collision and send that data electronically to the Iowa DOT. TraCS software and support is provided by the Iowa DOT at no charge to qualifying Iowa public safety agencies. Iowa DOT currently receives over 90 percent of crash data electronically from local and state law enforcement agencies. Nearly two thirds of citations written in Iowa are submitted electronically (16). For an example of Arizona’s experience using the TraCS systems click here.

In addition to its use in Iowa, TraCS has an extensive usage base. Currently, TraCS is being used in 14 states and one Canadian province. In New York alone, nearly 500 jurisdictions use the software (17), creating a massive capability for data interoperability, sharing, and consistency in reporting, aggregation, and analysis. A statewide (or province wide) agency TraCS software licenses costs $52,500 per year, which provides for unlimited usage within the state or province. The annual licensing agreement is between the State of Iowa and the participating state.

These approaches continue to showcase innovative practices and increase the quality, availability, and timeliness of data for traffic incident management performance measures.

Arizona TRACs