At the Law Enforcement Support Agency (LESA) in Pierce County, Wash., it's the job of Mark Knutson, assistant director of IT operations, to coordinate efforts between police, forensics experts, emergency responders and the court system12 separate law enforcement agencies in all. Since 1997, the agencies have pooled their resources and paid LESA to link the departments' databases and help the area's 1,100 police officers do their jobs better using mobile technologythe ultimate in centralized wireless strategy. Today, police cars are fitted with high-powered wireless laptops, rendering the CB radio nearly pointless. Officers communicate with headquarters and each other via mobile messaging. The laptops also allow police officers to search instantly for warrants, stolen car reports, forensic evidence and rap sheets, among a host of other datarequests that used to take hours or even days.
Knutson won't link the new technology to a drop in crime, but officers say the tool is invaluable. "It's a tremendous improvement," says Captain Charles Meinema of the Tacoma Police Department. "We're recovering more vehicles because officers can run a stolen car check from their car. Before, they had to run checks by radio, which could take hours."
And a solid mobility plan can help generate revenue. Angela Brav, senior vice president of applied technology for the Americas at InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Candlewood Suites brands, says that when she was promoted to her current position in 2002, "it was clear that we didn't have the best tools for our employees to be competitive." So, she took the entire strategy under her control, outfitting nearly 400 key people with BlackBerrys, and more than 400 with wireless laptops. "The idea was to unleash information to the right people so they can outperform and improve the business." Since then, the company's Americas franchise sales group sold 81 new franchises in the second quarter of 2004 alonea company record. Brav believes the increased communication and access to information helped close many deals. "It's absolutely been an attribute. We're spending more money than ever on technology, but outperforming like never before."