Solutions

On the Look Out for Abandon Vehicles

Santa Clara Police Department

There are two things police know a lot about: crime and paperwork. Sometimes all the paperwork — reports, requisitions, schedules and logs — can be the real killer! That may be why Lieutenant Roger Luebkeman of the Santa Clara Police Department is so enthusiastic about his new abandoned vehicle tracking database. Not only has it helped generate more than $70,000 in new funding for the city, it's significantly reduced the department's paperwork load.

Overview

  • The Santa Clara Police Department relies on a FileMaker Pro–based solution to track abandoned vehicles. Moving from a paper–based system to the FileMaker Pro–based solution helped generate more than $70,000 in new funding, and saves the officers time so they can handle more critical duties

Industry

  • Government

The audit won't be needed any more. And we're more accurate. Each vehicle is worth about $100 in state funds. Other agencies were losing up to 10 percent of their claims, because of inadequate documentation. We didn't lose a single one.

— Roger Luebkeman, Lieutenant, Santa Clara Police Department

Business Challenge

"Every year, California collects a dollar from vehicle registration, and distributes the funds to the cities for abandoned vehicle programs," Luebkeman said. "In the past the money was distributed by population, so Santa Clara received about $72,000. In 1996, the State changed the law, and now you are funded by the number of vehicles you identify as abandoned. The State required us to have proof for each vehicle, and it was subject to auditing. This created a paperwork nightmare for us. They wanted a worksheet on every car, copies made, and reports done every quarter."

With 400 to 500 vehicles abandoned in Santa Clara every quarter, and up to 3,000 county–wide, the stack of paperwork generated to collect the funds was several feet high.

Successful Solution

Recently, however, Luebkeman decided to try another method. He designed a database in FileMaker Pro, which officers used to keep track of potential and actual abandoned cars and trucks. FileMaker Pro is a relational database application designed to help manage and share information in the real world. It's a fast and easy software system for creating databases that are completely cross–platform on Macintosh, Windows 95, Windows NT, or Windows 3.1.

"The database tracks every potentially abandoned vehicle," Luebkeman said. "We use it to print a daily activity report, sorted by patrol beat, which includes information about the car and it's location. Before, we used to put everything in a folder, and hope we'd get back to it on the right day. This is much more efficient. Now the officer knows which cars to check up on today."

Once out in the field, the community service officers check off criteria to determine whether the vehicle is officially abandoned. Several patrol cars actually have Windows laptops running FileMaker Pro and Dragon Dictate, which allow the officers to complete their survey with voice activation alone. If the vehicle needs another check–up, the officer enters the new date, and the record reappears automatically on the future day's activity report.

Customer Benefits

Officers, who aren't accustomed to computers, find the FileMaker database program crisply professional and easy to use. Lt. Luebkeman, who isn't a programmer, actually wrote the database in less than 50 hours using the standard templates included in FileMaker Pro.

"Whenever somebody sees it, they're very impressed," said Luebkeman. "The buttons and colored screens give it a good look, and highlighted data makes working on the screen easier. It looks like a professional program, when in fact I did the whole thing by myself."

It's so much easier to identify and track the cars this way. Since there's so much less paperwork, it's freed up our officers to go out and actively look for abandoned cars, as well as handle other more pressing law enforcement duties. And that's the whole point.

— Roger Luebkeman, Lieutenant, Santa Clara Police Department

Now, at the end of the quarter, instead of wading through the manila folders for days of checking and backtracking, the department just presses a button, and a two–page report is automatically generated.

"The auditing was costing the county $3,000 a year, which reduced revenue for individual cities," Luebkeman said. "The audit won't be needed any more. And we're more accurate. Each vehicle is worth about $100 in state funds. Other agencies were losing up to 10 percent of their claims, because of inadequate documentation. We didn't lose a single one."

Using the database, the city collected more than $148,000 in abandoned vehicle funds from the state this year — $76,000 more than previous years.

The department's next goal is to introduce the FileMaker Abandoned Vehicle Database Tracking System state–wide. Even though it will give competing police departments the same advantage Santa Clara currently has in getting abandoned vehicle funds, Roger Luebkeman think's it's worthwhile.

"It's so much easier to identify and track the cars this way," Lt. Luebkeman said. "Since there's so much less paperwork, it's freed up our officers to go out and actively look for abandoned cars, as well as handle other more pressing law enforcement duties. And that's the whole point."

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker Inc.
408-987-7227
kevin_mallon@filemaker.com
http://www.filemaker.com