Jul 07 2008

High-Tech Policing

Videoconferencing Hits the Road

When a New Hampshire state trooper pulls over a speeder, he can find out if the license plate or vehicle is stolen before he gets out of the squad car and approaches the driver. That’s because his car is equipped with a cutting-edge voice command system called Project54. Developed by the University of New Hampshire, the software allows the trooper to control anything in the squad car — including running license checks, tuning police radios, turning on lights and sirens, and operating scanners or radar gear — with voice commands.

“One of the driving forces of the Project54 program was to try to make a safer environment for the state police,” explains Lt. Mark Liebl, assistant bureau commander of support services for the New Hampshire State Police. To activate the Project54 software running on a rugged notebook, a police officer pushes a button on the steering wheel. After that, he merely says a command, such as “rear strobes,” and those lights turn on.

In addition to minimizing distractions, Liebl says, the technology aids in locating stolen vehicles or apprehending out- of-state suspects. Troopers often canvass hotels and motels near interstate highways in the middle of the night looking for invalid plates, stolen vehicles and vehicles with outstanding warrants. With Project54, officers can run hundreds more plates per month than they could enter manually into their computers or call in to a dispatcher.

Videoconferencing Hits the Road

Illinois is integrating eight Polycom Mobile Responder units into trailer-mounted emergency communications “packages” deployed in each region of the state. The packages include portable radios, satellite terminals for Internet access and Voice over IP phones.

The Polycom videoconferencing technology lets first responders host face-to-face conversations and share video among police, fire and other emergency management agencies. “It is completely integrated into a ruggedized container, so it is easily transportable whether it’s used at a disaster scene by routing it through a VSAT [very small aperture terminal] or easily moved into another facility and hooked up to the terrestrial Internet,” says Alan Choutka, a statewide coordinator for interoperable communications programs related to emergency management.

Illinois hasn’t used the $15,000 devices to respond to an emergency yet, but state officials are optimistic about the benefits that video can bring in response to incidents such as ice storms and tornadoes.


“I’m more encouraged by this [automatic license recognition camera] system than anything I’ve seen in my 21 years on the job. It’s retty amazing technology or law enforcement.” Capt. Jeffrey Butler, commander of the information technology management section of the Cincinnati Police Department, on the city’s deployment of license plate recognition cameras from PIPS Technology.

“With the better quality of the recording, you have fewer errors and less time taken in order to get a transcription done.” Sgt. Mark Stevens, Colorado Springs Police Department, on the Konexx digital voice recording system the city’s Internal Affairs group uses to record and transcribe interviews regarding police misconduct.

“Imagine yourself in a chase in heavy traffic driving 100 miles an hour, trying to watch the suspect, watch the other traffic and you drive out of radio range and need to change the radio channel. With Project54, you can give a voice command to change the radio channel so you can keep your eyes on the road where they should be.” Lt. Walter “Chip” Smith, Maryland State Police, on the voice command system adopted by the agency

By the Numbers


The amount of federal money spent over the last nine years on the University of New Hampshire’s Project54 effort to develop a voice command system for police cars and to outfit 1,000 vehicles in New Hampshire with the system.


The number of law enforcement agencies using automatic license plate recognition cameras from PIPS Technology of Knoxville, Tenn., to find stolen vehicles and fugitives, monitor sexual predators and catch drivers with outstanding parking tickets.


The number of license plates that seven squad cars equipped with automatic license plate recognition cameras read in six weeks on the job for the Cincinnati Police Department.

$4 million

The amount of unpaid fines associated with parking citations that are outstanding in Cincinnati.


How many citizens have signed up with Arlington County, Va., for text message alerts for school closings, street closures, accidents and bad weather.


Estimated number of internal affairs investigations in which the Colorado Springs Police Department has used a digital voice recording system to record and transcribe interviews with officers and witnesses about police misconduct.


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