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Laptops may take a bite out of crime

June 10, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

After a Hagerstown City Police officer makes an arrest, he returns to the police station to write a report.

The same is true when officers respond to traffic accidents or take information from a crime, or do anything that requires a written record.

The process is time-consuming, and Chief Dale J. Jones hopes it soon will be a thing of the past.

The federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has awarded Hagerstown a $265,352 grant to help pay for a new reporting system that will enable officers to file reports by using computers in their squad cars.

Jones said the system will work in conjunction with a new computer system the mayor and City Council approved for purchase earlier this year. It replaces an obsolete computer system, he said.

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With the new system, Jones said officers will be able to save time and energy by writing their reports on a laptop computer and then send the information electronically to the station. This will keep officers on the streets and out of the office, Jones said.

Jones said officials will devise a system and put the work out to bid. He said he envisions it being ready to use in about a year.

"It will be in place for every officer working the street on his shift," he said.

The grant comes under Making Officer Redeployment Effective, a federal program designed to increase police presence on the street.

"This grant will get cops out from behind a desk and onto the community's sidewalks and streets where they belong," U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said in a statement.

The city department has taken advantage of federal grants in the past. Jones said a COPS MORE grant paid for six new computers two years ago. He said another federal grant pays salaries of community police officers.

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