01/27/2005

New equipment assists work of Northville Cops; Computers, radios and towers will make communication easier, boost response times

The Associated Press

Next month, Northville Township Police Sgt. Kevin Bias and his colleagues will be able to receive information from dispatchers directly in their vehicles, as well as file reports remotely. The improvements are part of a $15 million project.

NORTHVILLE TOWNSHIP - Police and fire services in the city and township are expected to improve by Feb. 7 once new computer equipment, dispatch center radios and two radio receiver towers are installed.

The township Police Department''s additions will allow police officers, emergency dispatchers and other personnel to communicate more efficiently and will translate into faster response times for residents.

Several dispatchers, officers and other emergency employees currently use 12-year-old radios to communicate, Chief John Werth said.

This new technology gives dispatchers new base radios in their station to communicate with police and fire officials.

It also allows for a "wireless" department, giving dispatchers the ability to send information to individual police cars and other emergency vehicles.

In turn, officers will use the new system to file reports remotely from their vehicles.

All these improvements are part of a $15 million Township Hall project that includes a 10,000-square-foot addition to the police department. That addition is expected to open next month.

The agreement to join services was made four months ago. It saves city taxpayers about $150,000 a year and doesn''t drain the township''s public safety resources.

City residents like Eric Paterson, 23, support a merger of city and township services because it maintains the city and township''s quality of life.

Paterson is an employee of D&D Bicycle, which often sells several bicycles to both police departments. He''s glad that more improvements are on the way to make police and fire services more efficient.

"If people like our police officers feel the need to improve the service, then I don''t see why anyone would have a problem with it," Paterson said. "With the rapid rate of people coming to this area, especially the township, I definitely could see these improvements make a difference.

"It just makes sense to do something like this to benefit the area."

Additional radio receiver towers are needed to enhance communication between public safety officials and emergency dispatchers.

Some police officers and dispatchers had difficulty in October sending and receiving nonemergency radio messages due to "dead zones."

These areas, similar to those many cell phone users experience, were caused by increased residential and commercial growth, a lack of necessary radio receiver towers and other factors, Werth said.

Most problems occurred in a portion of the city near Northville Downs. Officers had the most trouble inside the racetrack, which made calls full of static and hard for the dispatch center to decipher.

None of the technical problems resulted in complaints from city or township residents, Werth added.

October was the first month of the agreement, and it resulted in 1,265 police runs in the township and 433 in the city. Since the agreement, the addition of city runs has increased the department''s load by 25 percent.

But that''s a comfortable volume for the department because of its partnership with city police and its improvements expected to make the job easier, Werth said.

A merger of services should help the Northville community cope with increased growth, especially in the township, which is expected to balloon to more than 30,000 by 2030, according to Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

The township''s population is around 25,000, while the city''s has stayed around 6,400 for several years.

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