Juneau Uses BI To Track Bear Intrusions - InformationWeek

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Juneau Uses BI To Track Bear Intrusions

Police in the Alaskan capital turn to Crystal Reports to get a handle on a hairy problem: local bears' regular forays into human-occupied territory.

Any time between April and October, their appetites may cause them to head into town, where they're not wanted, and where there's always potential for trouble. But thanks to computerized incident reporting tools, the police are ready for them.

Bears, that is.

Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is built on a narrow strip of land at the base of a mountain range within the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest. Consequently, some of the calls fielded by the local 9-1-1 operators inevitably concern bears rather than people.

The bears are especially troublesome during the autumn when they're bulking up in preparation for winter hibernation, explains Bill Childers, programmer and systems analyst for the Juneau Police Department. But he's figured out how to deal with them -- in terms of tracking their activity, anyway.

"The trick was to separate the reports of simple sightings from reports of litter bears," Childers says. "If a bear has figured out how to get into a garage for food, he is not going to go away, and the wildlife authorities will need to act."

And since any citizen who leaves a garbage receptacle unsecured against bear-foraging faces a municipal fine, the bear problem is also a law enforcement issue. Consequently, Childers uses Crystal Reports from Business Objects to automatically generate a weekly report on bear incidents. It's sent out every Monday to interested parties, and is even posted on the Web. Wildlife officials get a customized version with extra details, including the names and phone numbers of the citizens involved.

Of course, cataloging bear incidents is only a tiny slice of what Childers does at the JPD.

"They created my job as a temporary position seven years ago because the department had a proprietary computer-aided dispatching system with an integrated SQL database at the back end, but its reporting was rudimentary and not to be trusted," he recalls. "It was great for gathering data but generating reports had to be done by hand."

So they began using Crystal Reports to sift the database of the police dispatching system --where they log about 40,000 police calls per year -- for the reports they wanted. The dispatching tool has since been updated, but they still find that they need customized reports, Childers says.

For instance, he generates another automated report for owners of apartment buildings who want to know about police activity (as opposed to bear activity) on their properties. Another report deals with outstanding summonses.

But as far as Childers is concerned, the meat and potatoes of his system is Crystal Enterprise, which lets him publish the reports to the JPD office intranet with security levels attached to the documents.

"I don't have to touch any clients," he says. "The users just go to their browser and click a link. From that point they are logged onto my internal Web portal and they are allowed to see whatever they are allowed to see. It's a painless way to distribute this stuff -- I didn't have to put anything on any of the computers out there."

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