Akron's designation as Ohio's hub of innovation is being bolstered by a pilot program venture with international technology company Cisco.
On Wednesday, the city's police reports dating back about four years were placed on online, giving citizens immediate access to crime reports and statistics. Crash reports are not yet included.
The crime reports are available at: http://publicsafety.ci.akron.oh.us/police/.
By summer's end, Cisco and OneCommunity, the nonprofit broadband Internet provider that serves parts of Akron, will fit five police cruisers with an innovative information system that provides instantaneous voice, video and other data.
A third system in the pilot program will automate management of the city's new community learning centers, allowing easier access to scheduling events.
''We're expecting real big dividends from this project in a lot of ways,'' said David Lieberth, Akron's deputy mayor.
There is no cost to the city of Akron. In fact, Lieberth said Cisco will reimburse the city's overtime costs associated with the technology transition.
There will also likely be a cost savings in terms of labor, printing and time, for city workers and citizens. That labor savings will come to bear with obtaining police reports, which in the past would require a person to visit the downtown department and pay a clerk a nickel a page to copy a report.
As of Wednesday, the reports are available on the Internet free of charge. Lieberth said the immediacy of the reports provides transparency for the public as well as information about safety issues.
Internet users can track crimes by streets as well as by victims or suspects. Generally, reports are available within 24 hours of the incident, after they are reviewed by a supervisor and certain personal information is redacted, such as Social Security numbers.
''That is the most immediate, newest change people will experience,'' Lieberth said. ''It's a pretty significant advance in how we communicate with the public.''
Cisco intends to use Akron and neighboring Cuyahoga County as a model for its innovation and market Northeast Ohio's experience to the other regions across the country.
The company's global Smart+Connected Communities programs focus on work force training, public safety and service and health care.
Ronald Schwarz, Cisco's director of public sector solutions, said the company hopes the Akron pilot program will serve as an example to other cities for finding more simple and efficient ways of providing services as well as transitioning a region's economy.
''We're doing this because we want to prove the concept,'' Schwarz said. ''We're digging deeper.''
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.