Center for Advanced Public Safety

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Center for Advanced Public Safety
Type Research Unit
Established Late 1980s
Parent institution
University of Alabama
Director Allen Parrish
Location Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
University of Alabama Logo

The Center for Advanced Public Safety (CAPS) is a unit within the University of Alabama that specializes in advanced software development to assist traffic safety, law enforcement and homeland security.


Formerly known as the CARE Research and Development Laboratory (CRDL), CAPS has its historical roots in information technology development to advance traffic safety. This originated with the Critical Analysis Reporting Environment (CARE) that was initially developed to assist moderate sized cities process their traffic crash records in the mid to late 1980’s on CPM-based microcomputers. CARE[1] has undergone continuous innovation over the years and is now in its tenth major version upgrade, while becoming a component of the enterprise traffic safety data system in 12 different states.

CARE’s efficient data structures, information mining capabilities[2][3] and dashboard interface are not limited to traffic safety, and currently CARE is being applied to most of the databases developed and accessed by CAPS. These include a suite of field data capture software tools that are used by law enforcement to issue traffic citations (eCite), crash reports (eCrash), criminal incident reports, and to support a number of ancillary forms that are part of the business process for law enforcement. These software tools access both state and national databases through direct access to in-state data and NCIC/NLETS access to out of state data.

Optimal resource allocation and operational improvement have become the heart of CAPS’ research efforts. Recent innovations in this area include the development of software systems for optimal patrol routing,[4] the use of GIS in law enforcement,[5] and allocating roadway improvement funds for maximum safety benefits.[6] Considerable recent efforts have gone into attempts to determine the true effects of various traffic safety countermeasures and to factor in the effects of major economic changes.[7] CAPS puts out an annual Crash Facts Book for the state of Alabama[8] and it maintains a web site called Safe Home Alabama,[9] which is unique in not being agency or organization centric, but rather attempts to be totally comprehensive of all Alabama traffic safety efforts as well as including many National programs.

Affiliates and partners[edit]

CAPS believes strongly in being a co-equal partner to its own state agencies and local law enforcement within the state. Its major recent activity has served the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs – Law Enforcement and Traffic Safety Division, the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts, and the Alabama Department of Public Safety. The CARE software and many of its roadway safety planning functions have been supported by the Alabama Department of Transportation for decades. CAPS also supports the Alabama Department of Revenue Motor Vehicle Division’s IT functions through software to manage vehicle registrations, titling and mandatory liability insurance enforcement. Further, CAPS most recently entered the health and human services arena through its support of various projects with the Alabama Departments of Human Resources and Public Health.

CAPS has also been successful in taking system developments from Alabama into other states, thus saving these states considerable development time and money. For example, the most recent states to adopt CARE are Georgia, Wyoming and Nevada. The Automated Citation Issuance Support System (eCite) is being implemented in New Mexico, Arkansas and Mississippi. CAPS has also worked on projects for national organizations such as United States Department of Transportation, United States Department of Justice, United States Department of Homeland Security, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, National Science Foundation and NASA.


CAPS staff has been growing exponentially the last couple of years and this rapid growth is expected to continue well into the future. Its total staff of over 75 employees is composed of faculty members, full-time professional staff, graduate and undergraduate students. The number of full-time staff has grown to over 50 with 80% of these being experienced software developers. CAPS is dedicated to providing real-life experience to students, mainly to computer science students, and typically there are over 20 student interns that are actively engaged in CAPS projects. The students have a staff member who mentors and directs them on project participation.


  1. ^ Parrish, A., B. Dixon, D. Cordes, S. Vrbsky and D. Brown, “CARE: An Automobile Crash Data Analysis Tool,” IEEE Computer, vol. 36, no. 6, June 2003, pp. 22-30.
  2. ^ Wang, H., A. Parrish, R. Smith and S. Vrbsky, “Improved Variable and Value Ranking Techniques for Mining Categorical Traffic Accident Data,” Expert Systems with Applications, Volume 29, 2005, pp. 795-806.
  3. ^ Turner, D., D. Brown, A. Parrish and R. Stricklin, “Critical Analysis Reporting Environment (CARE),”, Data Mining IV, WIT Press, December 2003, pp. 119-128. (A publication of the Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Data Mining 2003).
  4. ^ Steil, D.A., J.R. Pate, N. A. Kraft, R. Smith, B. Dixon, L. Ding, A. Parrish, “Patrol Routing Expression, Execution, Evaluation and Engagement,” IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2011.
  5. ^ Smith, R., A. Graettinger, K. Keith, M. Hudnall and A. Parrish, “Using GIS for Law Enforcement,” Journal of Safety Research, vol. 36, 2005, pp. 477-479.
  6. ^ Smith, R., A. Graettinger, K. Keith and A. Parrish, “Identifying High Frequency Crash Locations: Empowering End-Users with GIS Capabilities,” ITE Journal, January 2007, vol. 77, no. 1, pp. 22-27.
  7. ^ Chi, G., T. Mcclure, and D. Brown, “Gasoline Prices and Traffic Crashes in Alabama, 1999-2009,” Traffic Injury Prevention, Vol. 13, No. 5, 2012, pp 476-484.
  8. ^ Crash Facts Book - "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-05. Retrieved 2012-11-01. 
  9. ^ Safe Home Alabama -

External links[edit]