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October 09, 2007
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Fla. city police cruisers to get digital video recorders

By Luis F. Perez
South Florida Sun-Sentinel 

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Coming soon to a Boca Raton police cruiser near you: a digital video recorder.

"In essence, we will be using TiVo in our police cars," Assistant Chief Edgar Morley said.

The city's Police Department plans to outfit virtually all its marked cars during the next two years with a system that includes global positioning. That will help improve response time, customer service and officer safety, Morley said.

The department will be able to get rid of the piles of VHS tapes it keeps with its video recording system that's about 15 years old. With it comes the headache of looking for a tape in storage and viewing miles of tape to find needed evidence. The new system allows police to search through video stored on a computer.

It's a move other police agencies also are looking to make.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office has completed testing and is looking for a vendor, spokesman Paul Miller said.

"We're hopeful that by the end of the year, we'll have some cameras in the cars," Miller said.

Digital video would allow better storage, pre-incident recording, a system to automatically locate police cars and the ability to help dispatchers send cars to scenes. Boca Raton hopes to buy 50 camera systems this year and up to 102 next year during the second phase of the technology upgrade.

The first phase, which includes the cameras, software and storage, will cost $495,000 and comes out of the city's capital improvements program, Morley said. The second phase should cost about the same if it's approved by the City Council.

The first part of the project was updating the computer system to handle video. A new, dedicated server can hold up to 25 terabytes of memory. One terabyte equals 1 trillion bytes.

Software also needs to be upgraded to allow the city's computer-assisted dispatch system to interpret global positioning data from each car. That allows dispatchers to send the closest officer to a call. With the new system, dispatchers will know where each car is, Morley said.

Getting police to calls faster is just one advantage. It's a tool that also can be used for training, Morley said. Officers can review video of stops and learn what they did right and what they can improve.

Copyright 2007 South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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