Crime-fighting technology helping serve the community through the Grass Valley Police Department | TheUnion.com

Crime-fighting technology helping serve the community through the Grass Valley Police Department

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

The Grass Valley Police Department is using state-of-the-art technology in its quest to ensure public safety.

"These technologies make us more efficient with our resources," said Police Chief Alex Gammelgard.

Body cameras were considered the latest and the greatest not so long ago. But now, from drones to analytic cameras that alert officers if something is amiss, the Grass Valley Police Department continues to operate at the cutting edge of crime-fighting technology.

Rolling out the new tech

The Grass Valley Police Department is rolling out a number of Remote Surveillance Units, or RSUs, which are souped up recording cameras with brains to match. The department is spending up to $25,000 to purchase and deploy several configurations of three to five cameras in multiple locations.

"They have an analytics component used to detect an entire or portion of a photo frame that might contain vehicles or persons," said Gammelgard. "They can send notification alerts to predestined phone numbers or email addresses, and then we can respond if appropriate."

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Gammegard said one Remote Surveillance Units in downtown Grass Valley helped solve a hit and run accident. Other uses include preventing property damage.

"For example, a park is closed after dusk but the RSU notifies an officer that a person has entered the park," said Gammelgard. "The officer can surreptitiously walk in and take enforcement action if that person is up to no good."

Another new gizmo is an updated and upgraded radar trailer. It displays a vehicle's speed and can also flash red and blue warning lights similar to those on a police car's light bar.

"Over a certain speed threshold set by the officer, the trailer will display the flashing lights," said Gammelgard. "It also records the number of vehicles travelling in either direction and captures speed data including the time of day.

"That information can be mined to determine average speeds and traffic patterns. It can be used to validate a speeding complaint that could result in extra enforcement, or indicate speeds are consistent with the posted limit."

The unit, which was purchased last summer for $8,189, does not generate tickets.

"I've had a number of people ask if it will send a ticket in the mail," said Gammelgard. "But we don't do that."

While the radar trailer can influence drivers' speeds, another traffic data collector purchased for $3,200 can be covertly mounted on poles.

"It has the same brains as what's in the trailer, but it doesn't have the visual effect of the flashing lights," said Gammelgard.

The police department is also researching drones, and will likely buy one by next spring. The department has budgeted $25,000.

"When unmanned aerial vehicles get expensive is in the optic and camera packages," Gammelgard said. "We're looking at something that can handle infrared activity, such as illegal campfire activity during the fire season. Instead of looking for a needle in a haystack, we'll already know where the needle is."

A new DoorStorm Ultra is a forcible door entry system that can help save lives and prevent officer injuries. The eight-inch unit weighs only 11 pounds but boasts 13,000 pounds of spreading force.

"It enables us to breach or enter locked or barricaded doors," said Police Captain Steve Johnson. "It's a spreading device that slowly spreads the door away from the frame as the officer turns a crank until the latching system of the door releases."

The new tool eliminates the need to kick down or ram doors that must be opened.

"In the past, we did it the old-fashioned way," said Johnson. "But that caused considerable damage to the door and door frame. And with adrenaline pumping, officers could damage their ankles, knees, or hips when kicking down a door. This device enables us to get in without using physical force."

The $1,500 DoorStorm Ultra was purchased with a grant from the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Prevention Council.

Educational tools

The council also helped pay for an educational apparatus that the police department will use to combat drunk driving.

"We're buying two pedal karts, cones, and a variety of impairment goggles," said Johnson about the department's new Drunk Busters package, expected to arrive by the end of the year. "The pedal karts look like little go karts with a steering wheel like a car. If you're driving them under normal conditions, you can easily navigate the course. But put on the impairment goggles, and people drive off the course and knock down cones."

The impairment goggles are the size and shape of ski goggles. The lenses simulate various degrees of impairment, from buzzed driving to extremely intoxicated.

Other versions simulate drug, opiate, heroin, pain medication, and marijuana use. They distort vision and affect both depth perception and equilibrium.

"It is powerful when participants experience how the impairment affects them," said Johnson.

Johnson said the police department plans to take the Drunk Buster package to community events. He said it will also be available for other law enforcement departments to use.

The karts have adjustable seats, so people as young as six-years-old can drive them. They will also accommodate adults up to 350 pounds.

Johnson said the $2,500 purchase was funded by the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council ($1,500), the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County ($500), and the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office ($500).

Donations and other grant funding, coupled with forward-thinking leadership, have allowed the Grass Valley Police Department to implement technologically-advanced public safety tools and strategies.

"Based on the data we have, we deploy officers where they are most needed," said Gammelgard. "We make sure our time used to educate the community is most efficient and the best value. It's an enhancement for officer safety, which in turn is community safety."

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

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