Tarrytown Police Drive into the Future
Tarrytown Police Drive into the FutureTarrytown police cruisers are now rolling with the latest technology and software.
Tarrytown-Sleepy Hallow Patch
By Sean Roach
October 30, 2010
Policing has changed a lot in the last 30 years.
"When I started in 1981 we had a manual typewriter, with a letter 'D' that stuck I might add," said Tarrytown Police Chief Scott Brown. "The blotter was a white piece of paper we had to glue together and it had probably been done that way for a hundred years prior to that."
The Tarrytown Police Department is doing away with the days of old and delving into the 21st century with the recent purchase, and implementation, of numerous technological advances that have revolutionized how the department does police work.
Probably the best example of this radical change can be found in the department's police cruisers, most of which have been retrofitted with license-plate scanning cameras, database software, digital radios, printers and laptop computers.
"It's become a mobile office," said Tarrytown Police Sgt. John Barbelet. "All of the New York State Police cars are setup like this now, as well as about 350 departments, so we're really bringing the department up to the new standard."
Two of the more unique software systems at the fingertips of the police are the Mobile Plate Hunter 900 and the TraCS (Traffic and Criminal Software) system. Used in conjunction with dual, rear-mounted license plate readers, an officer can catch an offending driver, check a driver's background, and print up a ticket and a court summons in a matter of minutes.
The Mobile Plate Hunter system works in tandem with the plate-reader cameras. The system scans every license plate it passes, on both sides of the car and at varying angles. The reader will still register a clear picture, even if a car passes going 40 miles per hour. The images are digitally processed and immediately scanned against a constantly updated Department of Motor Vehicles database that alerts on things like stolen vehicles, suspended registrations, or stolen license plates. It can also hunt out full or partial plates of vehicles known to have been involved in criminal activity.
So far the license plate scanner hasn't had any positive hits for stolen cars, but there have been a number of arrests for suspended registrations, often due to insurance lapse.
"While that may not seem like a big deal, if they are the ones that hit you, your premiums will go up unless you want to pursue it through civil court," Barbelet said.
TraCS allows for officers to do almost all of their paperwork and printing from their vehicle. They can then file information with department headquarters remotely. In the past, officers would have to come back to the station after each incident to file reports. Now, with a click of the button, they can be back on the streets patrolling.
"It saves on manhours," Barbelet said. "If officers can do their work from their car, they are out and visible and in the public more."
Being able to file remotely also cuts down on storage costs, as hard copies are no longer relevant or efficient. For instance, if an officer, court or defendant wants their specific incident file, it can be immediately pulled up on a computer and printed out, along with accompanying officers notes and evidence.
One of the big time savers for police on patrol is the ability to scan information, which automates much of the ticketing process. If an officer scans a license or registration they will immediately be informed of problems with the car or driver as well.
"The better you get at it, sometimes it takes the printer longer to print a ticket than it does for you to do the ticket on the computer," said officer Jose Ojito.
Digital cameras also come in handy with the new software. Officers can take pictures of an accident scene, or any pertinent evidence such as alcohol containers, and attached those pictures directly to a police report.
"Then if a guy is in court for DWI and says, 'I wasn't drinking', you can pull up the report and show the picture of the beer can that you took," Ojito said.
While the current Plate Hunter and TraCS software is linked with the state DMV's files, the department has plans coming in the near future to start uploading local court information to track down scofflaws and recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid parking fines.
"I would strongly suggest people pay their parking tickets, because this is coming in the very near future," Brown said. "The technology we have is just unbelievable."
The entire system has taken two years to implement, and the equipment upgrade came thanks to appropriations made at the federal level. In 2008, the department received a $94,000 federal grant through the Justice Department; and in 2009 they received an additional $59,000 from the federal government. The earmarks came with the aid of U.S. Representative Nita Lowey who is on the Congress' Committee on Appropriations.
"Supporting our local law enforcement agencies is vital," Lowey said last week. "People always make an issue of this kind of funding, but its very important, especially for communities like Tarrytown."
Brown said they had used every dollar the federal government had handed out, and said that Lowey had been key to ensuring the department was up standard.
"She does a fantastic job for the Village of Tarrytown as far as law enforcement goes," Brown said.