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Grant to link police agencies supported by commissioners

January 30, 2002

Grant to link police agencies supported by commissioners



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


The Washington County Board of Commissioners Tuesday verbally supported a grant application that would help pay for a computer network to enable local law enforcement officers to share crime information.

The U.S. Department of Commerce grant, if approved, would pay 50 percent matching costs for the project, which has an estimated cost of from $800,000 to $1.2 million, Captain Doug Mullendore of the Washington County Sheriff's Department said.

The cost would be shared by five jurisdictions with law enforcement agencies but the exact fiscal responsibility of each has not yet been determined, he said.

The five jurisdictions that would share the cost are: Washington County, Hagerstown, Hancock, Smithsburg and the State of Maryland.

Some of the share can be paid with in-kind services such as personnel who would maintain the network, Mullendore said.

No county money is set aside for the project.

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Four agencies - Hagerstown Police Department, Maryland State Police, Washington County Sheriff's Department and the Fire and Rescue Communications - have separate dispatch systems, Mullendore said.

Under existing communications, when the Hagerstown Police Department dispatches information on an armed robbery, for example, state police troopers and Sheriff's deputies won't know about the crime until those agencies are contacted, which sometimes can take 15 to 30 minutes, he said.

With the proposed network, a dispatcher could provide the information to all four agencies at the same time, and each agency would dispatch the information over the radio, he said.

Using the proposed network, it would be possible for local law enforcement employees to read reports of other local agencies, he said.

If he wanted to do that now, Mullendore said, he would have to call other agencies and ask them to pull reports for him, he said.

The Hancock and Smithsburg police departments would have access to the network.

In all the project would have eight partners: Hagerstown Police Department, the Drug Task Force, Maryland State Police, Washington County Sheriff's Department, Fire and Rescue Communications, Hancock Police Department, Smithsburg Police Department and the Washington County Detention Center.

Mullendore said he had no idea how good the county's chances are of getting the grant.

"We are taking a shot in the dark," he said.

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