New Communications Gear Aids Local Public Safety Officials - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/31/05

New Communications Gear Aids Local Public Safety Officials

They need information to help you, and now there's a new way for law enforcement across several Coastal Empire counties to get it. In a hurry. It's a new high-tech system linking officers on the road to each other and the information they need.

The Port Wentworth Police Department is just one of 21 public safety agencies that has this new-crime fighting tool in their patrol cars. Computers allow them to run license plates, check for outstanding warrants when they pull someone over, and communicate with other departments through an instant-message system.

Police say it's a whole lot faster than using their radios to ask dispatchers for the information. "Now we are able to run it instantaneously, not back them up, they can dispatch or what they need to do, handle 911 calls and we can handle everything in our cars," said Sgt. Matt Libby.

Public safety officials bought 92 of these computers with a $2 million grant. It started as just a program for the Southside Fire Department. "It far surpasses my imagination of how it will work," said Chief Wesley Meadows.

Now agencies in three counties are using it. "Our ultimate goal is to have communication up and down the Eastern Seaboard," said Chief Meadows.

The biggest benefit of the grant is to smaller departments. At $10,000 a pop, Port Wentworth police say they never would have been able to afford them.

It saves taxpayers money, and keeps the citizens safer.

In the next phase, officers will be able to call up maps on the computers to show just where calls come from, and it will help dispatchers keep track of their firefighters and officers at all times.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com

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