Fair share: Anoka County's new data center could become national model

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 15, 2013 - 10:46 PM

The data system will be shared by police, fire, jail and 911 agencies in every community. The goal is to save time and prevent errors.

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Calls to Anoka County’s 911 center will now reach police, fire and jail officials in the county under the new $7.6 million data system, built by California-based TriTech Software Systems.

Photo: TOM WALLACE • twallace@startribune.com,

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Anoka County is set to become Minnesota’s first county to use an all-encompassing public-safety computer system — one that will reach every community, law-enforcement agency, fire department, jail and 911 center — a project its California facilitator says will serve as a national model.

The new $7.6 million system, which will be announced Monday, will allow police and firefighters to share computer records in a way they never could before.

“Firefighters don’t know that they may be walking into a crack house or a high-crime area because they don’t have access to police records,” said Chris Maloney, founder and president of the system’s creator, TriTech Software Systems. “Police who never had access to the building blueprints that fire departments have will now have those records before they reach a crime scene.”

Allina Health also will be included in the project, which will go into service by 2015. It was designed by California-based TriTech, the vendor that serves Minneapolis’ dispatch center and is working with Ramsey County to create a new computer-aided dispatch center.

For the first time in Minnesota, 911 calls, which previously were directed to a single department, will now reach police, fire and jail officials. With one master system, records will no longer be duplicated by various departments as a case is handed off to them. That should eliminate mistakes and time, said Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo, who chairs the county’s Joint Law Enforcement Council.

“Reduction and redundancy,” said Don Abbott, Fridley’s director of public safety. “People are entering the same name over and over again on the same incident. Every time you do that, you introduce a new opportunity for errors. This is a big time-saver.”

Included in Anoka’s new system will be 11 law enforcement agencies, 15 fire departments and 21 communities. The combination of police and fire departments on such a grand scale is rare, several officials agreed.

“They’re cordial, but they don’t work together professionally,” Abbott said.

“We’re just different,” said Harlan Lundstrom, deputy fire chief for Blaine, Spring Lake Park and Arden Hills and president of Anoka County’s Fire Protection Council. “We’re used to working as a team, but police often work by themselves. We come directly to where we’re called; police work the streets. You don’t see any volunteer police departments.”

But police, fire and county officials agree that Anoka County needs to replace its 30-year-old computer-aided dispatch and a 14-year-old police-records system that officials say needs to be upgraded.

Anoka’s new system will include TriTech’s Inform CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) and Mobile solutions systems — the systems that Ramsey County will begin using in January of 2015.

While counties in other states have used systems similar to the one Anoka County will have, few are expected to be as sophisticated, said TriTech’s Maloney. “With the possibility of a large integrated system that can overlap from one county to another,” the Anoka County project “will be a great case study for others,” Maloney said.

He said other Minnesota agencies have contacted TriTech, which, he said, is negotiating with “another consortium within the region,” an entity south of Minneapolis.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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