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U.S. grant to fund technology upgrade

October 18, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - By next year, borough police could be filing routine paperwork and monitoring live video from laptop computers in their cruisers and firefighters accessing information about a building en route to a fire with a microwave data system.

On Monday, U.S. Rep Bill Shuster, R-Pa., announced at borough hall that Chambersburg has been approved for a $246,661 U.S. Department of Justice grant to pay for the wireless technology upgrade.

"It will enable the officers to use their laptops in the cars to communicate with the mainframe in city hall," Police Chief Michael T. DeFrank said Monday. The current wireless system, which uses a telephone company for data transmission and reception, is cumbersome, slow and prone to disconnect during data transfers, according to the project summary.

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The system will require the installation of antennas at two sites in the borough to receive and transmit data between the mainframe computer and police cruisers, fire engines and ambulances, and borough utility vehicles, according to the summary.

In addition to word processing, DeFrank said officers will be able to view real-time video from other cruisers or sites with cameras. As an example, he said a bank could choose to install cameras linked to the system, allowing officers to view what is happening inside during the commission of a crime.

It will enable officers to check for criminal warrants and see photos to aid in identifying people without having to return to headquarters, according to the summary.

Officers also will be able to spend more time on the street if they are able to transmit routine reports from their cruisers, rather than having to return to headquarters to do the paperwork, DeFrank said.

Information about borough buildings, such as whether they have sprinkler systems, the location of gas and electric lines, and chemical inventories, is already in the borough's computer system, DeFrank said. The microwave system will allow firefighters to view that information as they are going to the scene, he said.

Ambulance personnel will be able to more readily send and receive patient information with hospitals, according to the summary.

"We wouldn't be in a position to buy the equipment without the grant," DeFrank said, acknowledging Shuster's assistance in getting the money.

The funding is from the Justice Department's Community-Oriented Policing Services program and any costs exceeding the grant will be paid by the borough, according to Borough Secretary Tanya Mickey.

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