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Texas Police Go High Tech: Remote Terminals, PDAs, Cameras to Help Save Time

The Amarillo, Texas Police Department is riding a high-tech wave into the future with new technology purchases that will help officers streamline their work.

The department has purchased new equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is now getting into the hands of officers, while other technological gear is in the bidding process.

The new equipment will save hours of manpower, cutting time officers need to enter information into the department''s computer and enabling officers to concentrate more on their jobs, said Col. Robert Taylor of the Amarillo Police Department.

Officers policing Amarillo traffic have had personal digital assistants for the last three months, which they use to write tickets, Taylor said.

"The biggest problem is getting information into the computer," Taylor said. "(PDAs) can save entry of more than 50,000 tickets a year."

The Hewlett Packard Ipaq digital assistants, which cost $580, use touch-screen technology and automatically upload their information into the department''s computer system when officers dock them into a computer, Taylor said.

"They are in full deployment, and they are working fine," Taylor said.

The department is also in the process of installing updated mobile computer terminals into police patrol cars, which lets an officer scan a driver''s license.

That enables an officer to keep an eye on a traffic offender or a suspect, instead of manually entering driver license information, Taylor said.

The MCT has global-positioning capabilities, Taylor said.

The new MCTs, which are coming into deployment in small groups, will cost the department about $250,000, including about $128,000 for software, Taylor said.

Each one costs about $7,000 to $8,000 dollars.

The department has ordered 44 of them, and there are plans to buy 30 more, Taylor said.

Taylor said the department is also looking to replace VHS cameras in patrol cars with new digital-video equipment.

But in order to make it work, the department will need to buy a storage platform with enough capacity to hold 90 days of video from all officers'' cameras, Taylor said.

That could cost about $50,000, Taylor said.

With the new cameras and storage unit, the entire project could cost about $410,000, Taylor said.

Although the police department is purchasing new, flashier technology, it is also recycling its old computers for new purposes.

Police will place a recycled computer on the department''s third floor, where people waiting to talk to a detective can watch the computer to see the department''s most-wanted fugitives or watch a video about crime prevention, said Cpl. Jerry Neufeld, an APD spokesman.

"Residents can get information to protect themselves and secure their property," Neufeld said. "We might even catch some bad guys through the Crime Stoppers."

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