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Saturday, July 24, 2004



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GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Honolulu Police Detective David Barnett, of the HPD Information Technology Division, worked yesterday with the latest laptop to be installed in the blue-and-white squad cars.


New system speeds
police work


Honolulu police officers can now receive mug shots of suspects, write reports and get rap sheets out in the field on new laptop computers with fast wireless connections.

"It's going to make it easier, especially in hot cases, to send out photos," said Capt. John Thompson, of the Honolulu Police Department's Information Technology Division.

In a pilot program to test the technology, officers in their cars can send and receive all-points bulletins via e-mail with a suspect's photo or information on an abducted child, he said.

The last of 75 officers were outfitted yesterday with laptops, air cards and buttonlike antennae on the roofs of their vehicles.

Four officers tested the equipment and wireless service for 1 1/2 months, and the department is testing with 75 East Honolulu officers. Most are patrol officers. The service will expand to 1,425 officers by November.

The new system uses air cards, which are little radios with antennae, that provide dial-up speed 15 times faster than HPD's old system.

Officers will be able to connect to the city's network and the police intranet, but Web filtering will be used to prevent wider access to the Internet.

"So far, so good," said Sgt. Garrit Kurihara, who has tested the new technology. "It speeds up report writing and transferring information.

"There's been some minor problems. Otherwise, it's a step forward in technology. I think it's good for the department," Kurihara said.

Other than a glitch in the report writing, the system has worked well, said Detective Dave Barnett, with the HPD Information Technology Division.

With the older system and in the pre-computer era, officers used radio dispatch for information. With the new system, officers said, they can have the information readily available.

"Concentration needs to be on whatever you're investigating," Kurihara said. Officers can review the information later, and it reduces the chances for error, he said.

Barnett said the system just needs to be tweaked.

The officers will be able to connect through two different networks.

One, a commercial wireless data service from AT&T, costs $50 a month per vehicle. A second network uses Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) access to transmit data using a local network in short-range "hot spots," available at police and fire stations and city parks. Each Wi-Fi site costs $2,000 to $3,000.

The computers range from $1,500 to $2,500 for the "ruggedized" version with special shock absorbers.

The network will eventually become citywide and include the Honolulu Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services and Oahu Civil Defense.

Thompson said HPD will save on some costs by eliminating a lot of desktop computer stations because officers will not have to come back to the station to write reports.

In a couple of weeks, officers will be able to access the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, including information about neighbor island arrests.

"We want to be able to catch criminals and have faster, more efficient investigations of crimes," Thompson said.

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