San Mateo County Times (CA)

November 20, 2002
Section: Front Page

Squad cars get wireless links

   Emily Fancher, STAFF WRITER

MENLO PARK -- City police officers will soon have computers in their patrol cars to access databases and communicate with other officers through a wireless connection. Police Chief Christopher Boyd said that instead of returning to the station house to write up reports, officers can file them directly from their cars on the mobile terminals. They can also look at detailed information about and photos of wanted suspects, and run license plate searches while in the field to determine if a vehicle is stolen.

Officers can communicate with one another and the station with more privacy, Boyd said. While anyone can listen to radio calls on a police scanner, the wireless technology is encoded.

"It should reduce response times," said Boyd. "The goal is to have an officer on the beat more of the time and keep them closer to their calls for service."

Boyd initiated the project seven months ago and directed a staff member to begin researching hardware and software options.

Two months ago, the department chose four computers as demos to try out in four patrol cars. The demos were rated and one product was chosen.

The department is acquiring about 30 devices, about 20 for patrol cars.

"These are fantastic tools for law enforcement," said Deputy Sheriff Ron Levine of Santa Clara County, who is president of the High-Tech Crime Investigation Association. "It's excellent for officer safety and crime fighting."

Levine said very few agencies have this technology because of budget constraints, but that eventually every department will have it.

Tuesday night, the police department presented a resolution to the City Council approving the use of grant funds for the project.

The funding would come from the state legislature's Citizen's Option for Public Safety (COPS) program. The department has used the funds before for new technology, facility upgrades and new field equipment, according to a police report.

The new mobile terminal program is expected to cost $240,000, with about $100,000 allocated from this year's grant. He expects the system to be fully operational within a few months.

Staff writer Emily Fancher covers Menlo Park, Woodside, Atherton and Portola Valley. She can be reached at 348-4340.

(c) 2002 San Mateo County Times. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.