It's 3 a.m. and you hear police sirens down the street. There's something going on, but what is it?
Meriden Police are unveiling a new website Wednesday that will allow you to pop in your address and search for nearby police events, see police calls throughout the city, daily arrests and much more.
Police will present the new Meriden "Police to Community" or P2C site Wednesday night at at 6 p.m. in an hour-long community meeting. The of public access to police radio, which the department plans to encrypt in the next month, citing concerns for officer safety in light of the prevalence of police scanner apps for smartphones.
"We're going to talk about the technology of the Police Department, how it evolved, and how technology's evolved to the point where we have to keep on top of things to keep our officers safe," Meriden Police Chief Jeffry Cossette said Tuesday.
These are some of the final pieces in a three-year switch over to a new software system for the force, which dramatically changes how officers both share and receive information.
The new system replaces software from 1998 and was paid for using drug asset forfeiture funds, Cossette said Tuesday. It features a user-friendly format for officers to create incident reports right from a touch-screen in their squad cars, the ability for them to quickly look up information on a home they are called to on the touch-screen – previous calls to the address, whether residents have a registered dog or gun, and who owns the property, according to Lt. Brian Elionfante, who administers the system.
The system also filters calls and reports and releases them on the P2C site.
Meriden is the first in New England to use the P2C site, though they're widely used in the rest of the US - from Winston-Salem North Carolina, to Galveston Texas. Milford has just purchased the software, according to Elionfante, and other nearby cities are now looking at it.
At the meeting, Elionfante will demonstrate the site's uses and talk about new functionalities to come down the road for it - like allowing residents to get accident reports and other paperwork digitally, rather than having to go in-person to the Police Station.
Police will also discuss more details about the planned radio encryption Wednesday, something Cossette said he understands is unpopular with scanner devotees, and answer the public's questions on the topic.
To him the issue is how easy cheap scanner applications on smart phones can make it for those committing crimes to listen to police movements. He used the example of someone burglarizing a house and listening to the scanner to hear if police were being dispatched to the location. They may take more time if they don't hear officers are coming, flee if they hear officers are on their way – or be prepared to attack them.
Because of similar concerns, the P2C website will have a 30-minute delay from when police are dispatched to when information will be displayed on an event.
"We're trying to balance the safety of officers with the public's right to know," Cossette said.
To take a spin on the new site, click HERE.