Police Scanners May Be Headed For Morgue

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By: Carl Sullivan

A Louisiana Web site could relegate that annoying scanner over on the police desk to the junk heap of outdated technology. The Caddo Parish 911 Communications District in the northwestern corner of the state runs a portal that automatically publishes details about emergency services calls. The site (http://www.caddo911.com) can be reached by the public, but local media outlets have special access privileges that provide more information from the 911 dispatch center.

“A lot of times we hear stuff [on the scanner] and have absolutely no idea what it is,” said police reporter Seth Parsons of The Times in Shreveport. “The Web site saves a lot of time because we can look up the address and find out which agency has been sent out to respond to an event.”

The portal helps reporters decide whether or not they need to go to the scene of an accident, fire, or crime. For example, if a traffic-investigation unit is dispatched to an accident scene, Parsons knows there’s a potential fatality involved. The media section of the site also provides the case-file numbers to help reporters seeking to follow up with the public-information officer.

Parish authorities decided to build the site after upgrading to a new digital radio system that can’t be picked up by traditional scanners. In addition, there was the desire to “cut down on the number of nonemergency calls that our call center was receiving,” according to Arthur Meachum, the computer-aided-dispatch systems administrator for the Caddo 911 district. Meachum believes his agency’s Web site is the first of its kind. The California Highway Patrol is using a similar site to post some traffic information, he said.

The Caddo site is powered by an Oracle9iAS portal, which offers additional features that could be utilized later, said Marie Goodell, director of Oracle9i Application Server marketing. For example, the server is capable of providing wireless alerts which could be sent automatically to reporters and other personnel.

Goodell said similar technology from Oracle is being used by a media outlet in Indonesia to publish stories to their Web site from reporters in the field.

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