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Volume 70, Issue 60, Monday, November 15, 2004


Campus patrols to get experimental upgrade

College of Engineering tests new technology in two police cruisers

By Matt Cooper
Senior Staff Writer

The UH Police Department will receive two experimental, high-tech police cruisers this winter that could be the prototype for law-enforcement vehicles of the future.

The cruisers are the result of a partnership between the National Institute of Justice and UH's Cullen College of Engineering. UHPD Capt. Malcolm Davis said the project is the result of his department's unique situation as a working police station with access to top-level researchers on campus.

The technology in two state-of-the-art police cruisers arriving on campus January could make traditional police cars, like those seen here outside the UH Police Department, obsolete.
Manuel Rearte/The Daily Cougar

"It's gonna be way cool," Davis said. "We're looking forward to being on the cutting edge."

Davis said he expects the cruisers, a standard police car and a sport utility vehicle, to be on campus by the beginning of the year. UHPD plans to use them for all three shifts, including patrolling areas near campus.

The new cruisers will feature many state-of-the-art features, including Radio over Internet Protocol technology, which converts radio signals to data packets that can be sent electronically, similar to the growing Voice over IP telephone services.

The RoIP technology will allow different law-enforcement departments with different radio frequencies to communicate with each other -- particularly useful in an area like Houston, where many agencies co-exist.

"I came across a police car with 14 antennas," said Steven Pei, associate dean for research in the Cullen College of Engineering. "That's impressive, and that's not right. Each (police cruiser) will have the ability to make two different radio systems communicate."

The cruisers will also be able to tap into the new security camera network being installed across campus and allow officers to see what's happening in many locations directly from the driver's seat.

"We can monitor what's going on," Pei said. "You may want to capture the criminal at the crime scene."

Pei said the NIJ and the Cullen College of Engineering have been collaborating on in-car law enforcement for two years, working on projects including antennas with multiple frequency bands and vibration isolation equipment to protect sensitive electronics during high-speed car chases.

Pei said UH earned the NIJ's trust as a result and was awarded the vehicles and a $1 million grant to equip them.

"This funding is only the beginning," Pei said in a release. "We are looking forward to a long-term partnership with the automotive industry, electronic equipment manufacturers and the law enforcement community to develop the next generation mobile command capability."

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