Public safety broadband wireless networks go broader

     Most public safety agencies have heard about the important role broadband wireless networking and video security cameras played in supporting recovery efforts following the Minneapolis bridge disaster in August 2007. A handful of cameras were...

     Anecdotal results to date further reinforce the multi-applicable nature of the Riverside network.

     In one situation, a police volunteer was issuing a parking citation to an unoccupied truck for expired registration. The truck owner came out and became verbally abusive to the volunteer, who then called for a marked unit. As the marked unit was pulling up, the man got into his truck and drove off, striking the volunteer as he left. The in-car video system caught the assault on camera and the marked unit stopped the suspect. The Riverside Police used the 4.9 wireless network to upload the video to the server. The driver was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon — and the video provided evidence.

     In another incident, a K-9 officer was involved in a pursuit into another city in a unit equipped with in-car video and 4.9. The video caught the subject throwing contraband out of his car, which officers were later able to locate. The video also captured the end of the pursuit when the suspect ran from the car. The suspect was caught after a foot chase and perimeter was established. The video, which was uploaded via 4.9, positively identified the subject.

     Sometimes, just having Internet access in the field can make the difference, as was the case when an officer accessed a state Web site to look up probation terms on a suspect he had contacted. A probation search was conducted, illegal drugs were found and the suspect was arrested for possession of illegal drugs.

     In addition to 4.9 GHz supporting public safety applications, the Riverside network also supports public Wi-Fi access with both free and paid service levels. On the public works front, the network enables a slew of wireless applications for traffic signal control, parking meters, water well levels, power bank utilization, sanitation pumping stations and even ball field lighting; applications that drive municipal cost-savings and energy conservation.

     With a few years of planning, deployment and first-hand experience under the city's belt, and with so many cities standing to benefit from its experience, Riverside offers some valuable lessons learned. The city admits it was so aggressive in implementing new MDCs, the wireless network, and a new in-car video system for the Riverside Police Department — all at the same time — that personnel were sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of new technology.

     Steve Reneker, chief information officer for the City of Riverside, also cautions against overselling the free Wi-Fi service to the public. "While there is Wi-Fi coverage across the city, indoor use can be limited by the fact that laptops and handheld wireless devices are typically low powered, and therefore may not be able to transmit to the outdoor Wi-Fi network," he explains. The city promotes a local company that markets Wi-Fi modems recommended for extending the outdoor Wi-Fi network coverage into the user's home.

Small town, high-tech

     Proving that both crime and advanced technology for crime prevention are not just for big cities with big networks, Temple, Georgia, population 2,400, started its wireless public safety network with just one node, transmitting high-resolution video from a popular crime hotspot just off the interstate back to the police station.

     "Immediately following installation we already saw a decrease in crime, as the network is a visibledeterrent to theft and other crimes," explains Jay Repetto, chief of police for the Temple Police Department.

     Pleasantly surprised by the quality of the video and encouraged by the immediate results, the police department expanded the network, incrementally deploying more wireless nodes to enlarge its coverage area, and increasing the number of applications supported by the network. Officers in equipped units can now stream real-time video to headquarters or retrieve taped video at speeds of 120 frames a second (matching high-definition standards) with no discernable latency. Meanwhile, high-speed in-field access to the Georgia Crime Information Center database is saving officers critical time when pulling up information at the scene or during a routine DUI stop.

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