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Longview Police Department seeks grants to buy high-tech equipment

By Sherry Koonce
June 12, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Longview police soon could have new high-tech tools in the department's arsenal of crime-fighting equipment.

At their regular meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, City Council members will consider approving two police grant applications: one for the purchase of a license plate reader and the other for a robot system that would be used by the Police Tactical Unit.

The license plate reader system is cutting-edge law enforcement technology funded from the Edward Byrne Memorial JAG Formula Grant Program.

Cost of the license plate reader program is $40,114.

The technology allows cameras - which would be mounted on patrol cars - the ability to read the license plate of any passing vehicle.

Once read, the plate information goes into a computer in the vehicle and is compared to plates in several databases, said Kristie Brian, Longview police public information officer.

The Texas Crime Information Center's database can quickly match a license plate with a stolen vehicle, a missing person, etc.

Another database allows police officers to identify persons wanted on warrants from municipal court.

When there is a match, the officer is notified.

While the plate reader is checking databases for a hit, officers can perform other tasks such as answering calls for service or work traffic enforcement, she said.

Once a match is made, the officer will have to determine whether there is justification for a stop.

At a cost of $80,817 the second grant would be from the Department of Homeland Security Grant Program to purchase a radio-controlled robot system.

The system would be used for high-risk situations, such as those instances when someone is armed and/or barricaded, Brian said.

In other matters, the council will consider purchasing 11 new bus shelters and information kiosk areas.

Shawn Hara, city public information officer, said the city plans to eventually purchase 23 of the shelters and kiosks, but would start with 11 paid from the city's general fund. Each shelter cost about $4,750, while kiosks cost $2,200 each.

The council also will consider the purchase of two new Dodge Ram 4500 chassis and the refurbishing and remounting of the city fire department's existing early 2000 model ambulances.

Cost of the vehicles is estimated at $320,000, paid for from the city's vehicle replacement fund.

The council on Thursday also will consider the appointment of Ben Bratelli as associate municipal judge. Bratelli would preside over the municipal court during the municipal judge's absence.



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