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Wireless Stakeout: Using Smartphones to Nab Suspects

Using AZLink on a hand-held smartphone (left), an Arizona law enforcement officer can rapidly get the goods on a suspect, including photos and incident reports. When the going gets dangerous, the officer can use AZLink’s map overlays (right) to gain “situational awareness.” (January/February 2008) Police in Southern Arizona are taking to the streets equipped with a new handheld technology. It’s all part of a growing statewide program known as AZLink, which was developed with funding from the DHS S&T Directorate.

AZLink lets officers and fellow good guys—including agents, detectives, and sheriffs—find, read, and share mug shots, incident reports, and other law enforcement data…in the field, from their smartphones. Eventually, officers will be able to access information from all law enforcement agencies, right from the palm of their hand. The Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are also exploring uses of the technology.

The program marks a significant step toward improving information sharing among emergency responders nationwide. Before AZLink, law enforcement agencies in Arizona could access critical criminal data, but only from police radios or computers at headquarters. This new system exchanges secure data through the public’s cellular phone network, saving both time and resources.

AZLink Southern Arizona is administered by the Tucson Police Department and is already generating success stories. Officers and investigators recently used smartphones to look up criminal histories and comb through police reports in real time—helping them to arrest a murder suspect and suspects of fraud and aggravated shoplifting.

Zona officers love it. Said one field account, “The instant color photos and warrant hits were extremely important to officers on the scene [of a ‘shots fired’ call] in determining who the suspects were. Also, one of the subjects had multiple outstanding warrants, which allowed us to hold and make arrests.”

“AZLink places information and graphics in the hands of officers on scene, at point of contact,” says Bruce Baicar, who manages the project for the S&T Directorate’s Command, Control, and Interoperability Division. “This is critical for officer safety during on-the-street operations as well as intelligence sharing. We expect to see more success stories as AZLink transitions the program into more regions across the state.”

Based on the technology’s performance on the front lines—including tests at last month’s Fiesta Bowl in Glendale—the Directorate intends to provide more than 200 AZLink-enabled wireless devices to at least 20 law enforcement units across Arizona. These units will be at the local, tribal, state, and Federal levels.

To request more information about this story, please e-mail st.snapshots@hq.dhs.gov.

Last Updated: 01/03/2023
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