Mobile units aid small city in big way

Pratt County, Kansas, Web site

Crime is a concern everywhere, even in the small city of Pratt in rural south central Kansas.

"Oh, I think we experience the same crimes as any other jurisdiction, just in smaller amounts," said Capt. Steve Holmes. His 21-member police department includes 14 sworn officers watching over a population of about 7,000.

To help patrols respond to serious situations, get critical information in the field, and save time and money, the department used a $200,000 federal law enforcement grant awarded last year to implement a computer-aided dispatch and records management system and a mobile wireless broadband network.

Holmes said the department looked into Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) but found transmission speeds too slow for the data-rich files and recurring costs substantial.

The department selected a secure wireless broadband system from Alvarion Ltd. that enables officers to access large files, such as mug shots, and other information at speeds up to 1.544 megabits/sec.

Water, airport and civic center towers were used to install the network and police vehicles were equipped with the rugged mobile data radio system, called BreezeAccess SU-M. Nine mobile units were purchased and five broadcast networks secured, Holmes said.

According to Carlton O'Neal, Alvarion's vice president of marketing, the private network will have no recurring telecommunications costs and because the radios operate in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz radio band, there are no user or upfront fees payable to the Federal Communications Commission.

"We see these community area networks as the natural next evolution," he said. "Reality is it gets deployed as there's a need. Police officers see absolute results. But once those base stations are in place, everyone from the water department to government officials can leverage off the same system."

With the system, Holmes said officers soon will be able to tap into security cameras at private facilities, such as banks and convenience stores, via the Web. He said the department is working with several businesses to access their videos.

Other features include enabling officers to download the state's laws and statues, so it is like having a "research library in your police car," Holmes said.

Officers also can use voice over IP so that they do not have to return to the station to make a phone call, he added. With such time saved, Holmes said the department has estimated that it has kept another police officer on the street.

"The Internet is a common carrier that can allow departments to communicate with each other," he added. "One application I can foresee is big push for is facial recognition software."

Holmes said his department is talking with the sheriff's department as well as several other jurisdictions about the system.

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