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3/14/2005
04:08 PM
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Law, Order, And Technology In 2005

By the time May flowers begin to bloom in San Francisco, the city's Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) police department can expect an upgrade to the wireless handheld technology that helps its 191 officers patrol the region's 43 rail stations and 104 miles of tracks. Central to the upgrade is a geographic mapping application that integrates with the BART dispatch system to deliver via wireless handhelds key logistical information to officers, including train-station schematics, track milepo

By the time May flowers begin to bloom in San Francisco, the city's Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) police department can expect an upgrade to the wireless handheld technology that helps its 191 officers patrol the region's 43 rail stations and 104 miles of tracks. Central to the upgrade is a geographic mapping application that integrates with the BART dispatch system to deliver via wireless handhelds key logistical information to officers, including train-station schematics, track milepost markers, and underground emergency-exit locations. The trend in law enforcement in recent years is to make information technology as much a standard-issue piece of equipment as a flashlight or a pistol.Although BART has since November 2003 used location-based technology from MapInfo Corp. to consolidate and electronically manage 40-year-old documentation, this spring's relaunch makes that information available through full-color BlackBerry 7520 handhelds from Research In Motion Ltd. BART's new wireless applications are built using MapInfo MapXtreme Java Edition map-building software and accessed using mBizMap mobile map-access software from mBizTech Corp.

BART will initially make eight BlackBerry 7520 handhelds available to patrol officers. In addition to MapInfo software, the handhelds will also run Aether Systems' PocketBlue software, which lets them query law-enforcement databases for license plate and criminal history information. The department has no plans to deploy additional handhelds until it finishes deploying 50 laptops armed with mapping software to its patrol cars, a project expected to be completed by the end of 2006.

"In 2005, there's no logical reason for technologies to be separate and cumbersome," says Carissa Goldner, BART's computer-assisted dispatch and records-management systems administrator. "We're looking to give officers as many resources as possible while they're out in the field."

BART officers previously had access to BlackBerry 957 handhelds, but the small black-and-white screens proved ineffective for delivering detailed graphics and mapping information, Goldner says.

Although on a smaller scale, BART's wireless deployment resembles a Jersey City Police Department project I wrote about recently. In Jersey City, the department is launching a $15 million IT project to implement a new high-speed mobile network and handheld computing devices that ensure every officer has access to critical information in real time.

About 340 miles south of San Francisco, the Los Angeles Police Department has since 2003 been using PDT 8100 ruggedized handhelds from Symbol Technologies running Vytek Public Safety Solutions Inc.'s ProfilerPD software to let more than 1,000 officers collect critical law-enforcement data and communicate with police stations and centralized databases as they move throughout the department's citywide network.

It's nice to know that the good guys are as well armed (or at least better informed) as the bad guys.

How does your mobile workforce benefit from information delivered on the fly? Have your investments in wireless paid off?

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