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University of Nebraska Omaha using data to help make Sarpy County safer

Posted at 10:46 AM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 17:29:03-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As Sarpy County continues to grow, so does the number of 911 calls they receive. As a way to help law enforcement, the University of Nebraska - Omaha created a program that gathers data from those 911 calls with the hopes it will make Sarpy County safer.

One problematic intersection in Sarpy County is 72nd Street and Highway 370. From Dec. 24 to Jan. 23, there were thirty-eight 911 calls made about that intersection.

"What you're probably seeing is that there's a lot of traffic accidents in this location," said Kerry Ward, an assistant professor at UNO.

He says more law enforcement presence there may help with that issue.

"But unless you have the data that can help you identify where these calls for service are coming from, where the traffic accidents are being clustered, you don't know to move your man power into that area," said Ward.

That's when UNO and the Sarpy County Sheriff's Office collaborated on a project to help make the area safer. Dr. Sachin Pawaskar, Professor of Information Systems at the university, helped create a program that takes the data from years worth of 911 calls in Sarpy County. That data is sorted out and the information is provided to law enforcement. One of those tools is a map that shows all the calls made at certain locations.

"If that location had prior incidents that happened over there then the officer is informed and they can make better decisions or maybe they can ask for backup to come in," said Pawaskar.

"It keeps allowing us to use data and statistics to our benefit, and the communities benefit where we can look at and understand what's going on in the community even better than we do now," said Lt. Matt Core with the Sarpy County Sheriff's Office.

The information has always been available to law enforcement, but not in a organized, real time manner like this.

"This gives us that quick glimpse that we can pull up on a screen, look at and see that we have something that happened in this area we can focus more of our attention on it that way," said Core.

The goal is that collaboration grows into other counties, as helping keep the community safe takes a community effort.

"By partnering together we can hopefully bring what we understand from academia and make the community a better place," said Ward.

The two professors say they hope the platform is picked up by other local law enforcement agencies, and other smaller communities that really need the resources.