Police score grant for car computers


Hood River Police Capt. Kevin Lynch waits for the answer to an inquiry typed into one of three mobile test computers.

Hood River City Police Officers have a new, high-tech weapon to use in their fight against crime.

The local agency has scored a $112,000 Cops More grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to install laptop computers in all patrol cars. The city is required to pay $37,000 in matching funds for the new equipment.

The portable terminals will enable officers to use the stroke of a keyboard to check for outstanding warrants. They will also be able to access Department of Motor Vehicles records. In addition, police can look up case files and update incident reports without sitting at their desks.

“The main idea is to streamline the duties of our officers — everything we do in the office can now be done in the car and that leaves more time for patrolling the streets,” said Capt. Kevin Lynch.

For example, he said a patrol officer may observe a subject walking down the street who has recently been jailed. If that individual is wanted for a probation violation, Lynch said police will know almost instantly after making an electronic inquiry. In addition, he said color photographs can be downloaded within seconds to resolve scenarios where an individual is suspected of using fake identification. He said the instant availability of information will be especially useful on weekends when the high volume of radio traffic keeps dispatchers scrambling.

“With this computer, an officer can check as many things as he/she wants without tying up the system,” said Lynch.

He and Lt. Jerry Brown traveled to California in February to learn about the new Justice software by CMI that is offered with the machines. They will train other officers on the many functions available with the Panasonic Touch Books. The portable terminals are made to avoid jarring and specially sealed for protection against dust and moisture.

Lynch said three of the new computers are already in place and, once the start-up tests have been completed, the remaining models will be installed and linked to the county dispatch center. He said an added benefit of the program is encrypted text messaging that allows sensitive information to be relayed to dispatch without it being broadcast over the air waves.

The custom law enforcement software also provides access to a database of stolen weapons, evidence files and HAZMAT response instructions. In the future, Lynch said the computers will be outfitted with GPS mapping that will help emergency responders locate pertinent data, such as the location of fire hydrants and the physical addresses of reporting parties.

“We need this technology to keep up with Hood River’s growing population but it would be impossible without this grant,” Lynch said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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