DPS Cars Get Computers

Texas state troopers are going high tech. The Department of Public Safety is well on the way to getting computers installed in its huge fleet of highway patrol cars. Jim Bell reports.

Police agencies all over the country have had computers in patrol cars for years, but not everyone has them because they’re so expensive. Custom made computers with custom made software cost a lot of money. Then there’s the cost of setting up a wireless network the size of Texas to connect all those computers by satellite.  DPS Spokesman Tom Vinger says computers are already helping state troopers in a lot of ways.

“We’ll for example have the ability to instantly identify wanted persons in stolen vehicles.  They’ll also get Homeland Security information, driver license photos, we’re the only police agency that can do that right now.”

Vinger says the computers also have GPS technology that can be used in several ways.

“For example we can mark when somebody throws drugs out the window during a pursuit. We can use that to help in a pursuit, and help maneuver units in on the perpetrator. During the hurricane we were able to route troopers around affected areas.”

Vinger says the last legislative session appropriated 15 million dollars for this project. Right now about 80 percent of the DPS’s 2000 patrol cars have the computers. The hope is to have the entire fleet equipped with them by the end of next year.

Jim Bell, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.