Police seek money to start putting computers into cruisers

January 27, 1995|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County police officials presented capital budget requests yesterday for $1.7 million worth of projects in the 1996 fiscal year, including money to begin installing computers in patrol cars.

Four of the "smart cars" developed by Linthicum-based Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group were tested over a six-month period last year in the Eastern District.

Police officials say they think the computers, which would give officers access to Motor Vehicle Administration, county police and national crime databases, can help them do their jobs more effectively.

"We're information-based; that's how we do our business," Acting Chief Robert Beck told the Planning Advisory Board, a seven-member panel appointed by the county executive to review capital projects. The police department was the first county agency to appear before the board.

Chief Beck said Eastern District officers found it more convenient to use computers to seek information, rather than radioing a dispatcher. They made inquiries three times more often than did their radio-using colleagues and received their answers back five times faster.

"We'll make more recoveries of stolen cars because you'll be keying in more tag numbers," Chief Beck said.

"This would assist us in lowering some of the voice load on our radios."

The police department is requesting $929,000 for the computers for the 1996 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

That would pay for the equipment now at the Eastern District, including the four computer terminals and the communications equipment that picks up the signals and relays them to the mainframe computer at police headquarters. It also would pay for 23 more computer terminals.

The total cost for the system, which is to be purchased and installed over six years, would be approximately $20 million.

"This is an expensive project. There's no doubt about it," said Chief Beck in explaining to the board why the police are proposing to fund the computer project over several years.

Other proposed building projects are:

* $259,000 to construct an addition to the Northern District police station.

* $200,000 to upgrade the heating and ventilation system at the department's crime lab. The system now in use allows chemicals used in the labs to seep into other parts of the building and allows an uncomfortable buildup of humidity in the summer, Chief Beck said.

* $119,600 for portable radios.

* $97,000 for a fire escape at the Southern District police station.

* $32,000 to prepare plans for an addition to the Western District police station.

The Planning Advisory Board will vote on the appropriations at a later meeting.

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