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updated: 12/31/2013 3:07 PM

Naperville police upgrading technology for evidence, efficiency

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  • Naperville Cmdr. Jason Arres adjusts a monitor for a new camera, seen on the right, being installed in city police cars.

      Naperville Cmdr. Jason Arres adjusts a monitor for a new camera, seen on the right, being installed in city police cars.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Naperville police cars are getting small cameras installed near the rearview mirror.

      Naperville police cars are getting small cameras installed near the rearview mirror.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer


Naperville police will get in-car cameras in 2014 as the first step in a technology push that also will include better cellphones, new license plate scanning equipment and upgraded crash and ticket recording systems.

The plan aims to bring the department up to speed in areas in which its technology was falling behind, Chief Robert Marshall said.

The first and most urgent move is the addition of cameras to squad cars. Naperville's is one of the last police departments in the area not to use video and audio recording technology.

Marshall said prosecutors and judges begged the department to begin recording video of officer interactions with the public because the footage can serve as evidence in court.

"Even before the plan we knew there was one thing we needed to get accomplished and that was video cameras in squad cars," Marshall said.

The cameras and accompanying software are in the process of being installed in each of the department's 38 cars as part of a $295,970 contract with WatchGuard Video of Allen, Texas. Cmdr. Jason Arres said the system should be ready by March and the cameras will start rolling automatically in situations such as traffic stops or whenever the officer hits a certain speed or turns on lights and sirens.

Also in progress is an upgrade of cellphones used by detectives and police supervisors from flip phones to iPhones. Arres said supervisors and detectives can work more efficiently with smartphones because they can record and review data without stopping at the station.

Marshall said the department found $15,000 for the cellphone upgrade by restructuring expenses within its 2014 budget.

"The offenders and the criminals had better technology than we did, and we just can't let that happen," he said.

Naperville residents who need to report a minor property crime -- their house got "egged," their mailbox was knocked over, items were stolen from their car -- soon will be able to do so more easily as the department upgrades its citizen online reporting system.

"We want to simplify the way in which residents can report minor property crimes," Marshall said.

Residents also may notice a slight decrease in traffic congestion when the department adds a new system for officers to report accidents and citations from the computers in their cars, instead of handwriting the information and copying it into records at the station. Beginning this spring, the department will install the software, which Marshall said will decrease the time an officer needs to be stopped on the road writing a ticket or report.

In another upgrade, squad cars will be equipped with license plate scanners that run more plates than an officer could manually check against state "hot lists" of stolen vehicles or people driving on suspended licenses, Arres said.

The scanners also create a database of license plate information that can be searched by time and location, and Marshall said it could help police investigate crimes such as the streak of home burglaries this fall.

Entering the time and address of a burglary into the system, police can get a record of plates that were in the area to more quickly identify suspicious vehicles and potential suspects.

"We believe people would encourage us to use all available technology," in investigating crimes such as the burglaries in August and September, Marshall said. "This is crime-specific ... We're interested in solving crimes, not spying on people."

Other technologies to be upgraded beginning next year include software for recording parking tickets and the digital fingerprinting system.

And beginning next spring, Naperville police will be sending one full-time employee to work in an FBI crime lab in Chicago as part of a task force the department is joining to investigate national or global scams that sometimes target suburban residents.

Marshall said the FBI offered Naperville a chance to participate when he toured the Chicago crime lab on a visit to receive confidential information about the people behind the breech of the city's website in October 2012.

The costs for many of these technology projects have not yet been determined, and Marshall said the department will seek proposals from qualified companies before signing any contracts.

An IT manager for public safety will be hired soon to oversee these police technology changes and create a technology plan for the fire department.

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