GPS for police put on track

By Benjamin Lanka

Council gives preliminary nod to installing devices in vehicles

How they voted
On spending $501,564 to install Global Positioning System-type tracking devices in police vehicles: 318

Tom Smith, R-1st
Tom Didier, R-3rd
Mitch Harper, R-4th
Glynn Hines, D-6th
Marty Bender, R-at large
Liz Brown, R-at large
John Shoaff, D-at large

Tim Pape, D-5th
Karen Goldner, D-2nd

Fort Wayne hopes to better track and deploy its police officers after the City Council gave a preliminary OK to buy tracking devices for cruisers.

The council voted 7-1-1 to spend $501,564 to install Global Positioning System-type tracking devices in 318 police vehicles. Councilman Tim Pape, D-5th, opposed the purchase, and Councilwoman Karen Goldner, D-2nd, abstained without giving a reason.

Pape tried to delay a vote on the purchase until the city better understood how a statewide property tax relief plan would affect the city's budget. He said the city might not be able to afford the expense if it faces budget cuts. The council Tuesday delayed a vote on a proposal to increase property taxes this year because of that state plan.

Council members Tom Smith, R-1st; Tom Didier, R-3rd; Mitch Harper, R-4th; Glynn Hines, D-6th; Marty Bender, R-at large; Liz Brown, R-at large; and John Shoaff, D-at large, supported the police department purchase.

Police Chief Rusty York said the devices, from Spillman Technologies, would provide numerous benefits for the department.

They will let dispatchers know which officers are closest to a scene, and officers can know how close their backup is before entering a dangerous situation.

We feel this is an officer safety issue,” York said.

York also said the system could be used by the city fire department and county police if those entities chose to pay for the individual vehicle units and licenses.

The cost will be paid by $200,000 in drug-seizure money, $75,000 from a grant and the remainder to be paid over five years as part of the department's equipment lease. York said the department would also have to pay an annual maintenance fee beginning in 2009 of about $46,000.

Brown questioned why the department didn't try to get tracking devices with the officers' radios to be able to follow them after leaving the vehicles. Bender, who is also a police officer, said that would likely require the city pay more than $15 million to upgrade the radio system.

If the council formally approves the purchase next week, York said he hoped to have the vehicles outfitted by this summer.