Tracking of police to begin in months|[10/26/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 26, 2006

The idea of a satellite tracking system for police and other vehicles is back, with Mayor Laurence Leyens saying $100,000 will be spent to start installing equipment within two months.

&#8220We have funded the (automatic vehicle locator) and will be doing field tests in a couple of weeks,” Leyens told other members of the 911 Commission Wednesday. &#8220About 130 city vehicles … will be loaded with this.”

About $800,000 was earmarked for such a system in 2001, but then-new Police Chief Tommy Moffett told Leyens it wasn’t a priority.

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It is now, Leyens said, and all city vehicles may be equipped with the tracking system.

&#8220We’ll do police, fire and a number of public works vehicles,” he said. &#8220We’re likely to expand that to do all the vehicles.”

AVLs combine global positioning technology, cellular communications, street-level mapping and an intuitive user interface.

When everything is working, a computer in Vicksburg Police Department, for example, could pinpoint the longitude, latitude, ground speed and course direction of any police vehicle and create a permanent log of locations and times second-to-second.

The tracking system is also expected to enhance operations at 911 Dispatch Center, where staff would have video monitors showing exact locations of response vehicles.

&#8220The biggest advantage to this is that we will know where everybody is,” said Geoffrey Greetham, director of Vicksburg-Warren E-911 Communications. &#8220We’ve got six deputies on the road and probably eight or nine police officers on the road. But we have a vague idea where they are. With this, we’ll know exactly where they are, and it allows us to better manage resources.”

Leyens agreed, but added the AVLs repeated his stance from five years ago the devices are needed to deter police officers from conducting personal business while on the clock.

&#8220It’s a tremendous management tool because it keeps up with everything in real time,” he said. &#8220You have officers who goof off, and this will eliminate that. If we’re not watching it (in real time), we can always pull up the data and see it.”

The system may also reduce the city’s liability in accidents involving its vehicles and employees, Leyens said.

&#8220It makes sense any way you look at it.”

Tracking devices may also be installed on officers’ cell phones, the mayor said, allowing supervisors and dispatchers to know where policemen are while on foot.

&#8220It helps reduce the response time,” Greetham said. With tracking devices, &#8220in an ideal world, they would not have to tell (dispatchers) where they are. But if you don’t have GPS in their phones, they would have to tell us where they are.”

Dispatchers, using the center’s computer-aided dispatch, or CAD, will have access to separate screens that receive data from AVL boxes in patrol cars, Greetham said.

&#8220Through the magic of technology, it will pop up on our screen in near-real time.”

AVL systems generally include a network of vehicles equipped with mobile radio receivers and GPS receivers, modems and antennas. GPS uses interactive maps instead of static map images on the Web, meaning users can perform such functions as zoom, pan, identify and queries.