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Police officers gain high-tech edge

A new communications system capable of transmitting video surveillance, photographs and other information to Medford police is in the works.

The city next month will start installing wireless transmitters on lampposts throughout Medford, said Deputy Police Chief Ron Norris. The City Council this month voted to take about &

36;200,000 from the general fund to pay for the project.

The technology will make police work more effective, transferring better information faster, said Lt. Tim George.

We are in the information business, George said. The quicker we get information and the more accurate that information is, the better cops we become.

— The new system will transmit data over laptop computers in patrol cars more than 37 times faster than existing technology, which bounces signals off cellular phone towers, Norris said. That translates to instantaneous transmission that also allows police to access the Internet and Driver and Motor Vehicle Services records, including photos, Norris said.

All city departments, including the fire department, will be hooked into the system, which has the potential to save the city about &

36;275,000 in the first year of operation, according to a cost-benefit analysis presented to city officials. The city, in effect, will own its own wireless network instead of contracting with others.

I'm convinced this is really going to revolutionize the way we do business, Norris said.

Medford police may become the first public safety agency in the nation to use the technology, developed by the military and sold through Florida-based MeshNetworks Inc., Norris said. The system will cost about &

36;700,000, of which &

36;500,000 is funded by grants from the federal Department of Homeland Security.

The system was tested in Medford's Alba Park, where a video camera temporarily was set up, Norris said. Although the system can feed real-time video to police department computers, the city has no plans to install cameras around town, Norris said. However, accessing video from surveillance cameras in schools and banks may be on the horizon, he said.

(Surveillance) on a regular basis, no, Norris said. In an emergency, would it be good police work? Yes.

Eventually, the system may be implemented in Ashland and Central Point, two cities that contract with Medford to provide public safety dispatching services, Norris said.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail .