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Utah Computer System Tracks its Patrol Cars On Video Display

By Michael N. Westley, The Salt Lake Tribune

At first glance, Sandy, Utah Police Department's new Auto Vehicle Locator may look like a video game, with little cars zipping around a map of the city on a computer screen. But a closer look reveals that this new addition to the city''s technological arsenal is aimed at increased efficiency and safety for officers on the street.

The Auto Vehicle Locator (AVL) is a tracking system that shows the position of active duty cars on a mapped computer screen. Not only can an officer at the command post see this activity, but officers in their cars can see the same screen as well.

The advantages for a system like this are many, says Sandy Police Chief Steve Chapman.

"Our number one duty is officer safety," he said, noting that the system''s ability to track an officer''s location would be invaluable if an officer''s life were on the line.

The system tracks speed, location, direction and time of day -- information that can help investigators piece together incidents, such as high-speed pursuits.

"Technology helps and we''re going to stay on the cutting edge with this system," Chapman said.

The AVL is just one facet of the department''s technology upgrade and works off of the modem systems installed in officers'' cars a year ago, at a cost of about $70,000. The modems gave officers the ability to file reports directly to the system, look up criminal histories and watch live dispatch entries in their cars, according to Sgt. Bill O''Neal, spokesman for Sandy police.

"The whole technology package is being received very well," Chapman said. "We just want to reassure them [officers] that we''re not out there to be Big Brother."

Other agencies in the valley that use AVL include South Jordan and West Valley City.

Capt. Gary Cox of South Jordan said there were complaints about the lack of privacy when the technology was considered several years ago but there have been no complaints recently.

"Given where we''re at technology-wise, I think it was expected and anticipated," Cox said.

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