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November 05, 2003
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City Cops Get High Tech with DVDs

In the past, if Trenton cops wanted to review a tape of a 911 call that was crucial to an investigation, they would have to call Tom Peterman, the administrative supervisor for the city''s communication center - who would then have to look through hours of VHS tapes in search of a single call. Sometimes, it would take hours.

"It was like a fishing expedition." Peterman said.

But those long searches are now over, as the department last month began using the Connecticut-based Dictaphone Corp.''s Freedom digital recording system, which allows it to record its emergency communications on DVD discs.

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Now, Freedom allows dispatchers to access the last half hour of recordings themselves and lets officials easily research recordings - so that an entire police incident can be reconstructed on tape within a matter of minutes and Peterman can get his sleep.

"If a critical call has to be replayed, it can," said Detective Maurice Crosby, the police department''s network administrator. "Before, they would have to have Tom Peterman come in from home to find something."

The system records the calls on a DVD disc, which can hold 20 days of communication center calls --about 20 times as much as a single VHS tape -- without any human intervention.

The city''s communication center had been searching for something better when officials went to Dictaphone headquarters looking for another recording system earlier this year.

They didn''t come away with anything, Crosby said, as technology that allowed the communications center to store recordings digitally and make them network-compatible didn''t exist.

But some time later; Dictaphone officials approached Trenton and advised them that a new system --the Freedom system -- that could easily meet their needs was in the works.

Trenton was initially turned down as a testing site, but Dictaphone officials later reconsidered after a concerted effort by Crosby and fire department network coordinator Don Kanka.

Now, Trenton and the city of Bethel, Conn. are testing the system, which is expected to be fully released sometime in the near future. About 40 orders have been placed for the system, said Dictaphone spokesman Robert Wick -- 30 from the public safety sector and 10 from the financial sector. The product hasn''t been officially priced yet, Wick said, but its estimated cost is about $1,000 a channel -- which would work out to about $120,000



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