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New police computers help spread the word

February 17, 2000

Greg Risling

COSTA MESA -- It's square, glows in the dark and has the capability to

provide valuable details in a matter of minutes.

If you guessed the answer was a computer, you are right. The computer

serves many facets in today's fast-paced world of technology, maybe none

more pressing than informing the public about a crime committed in their

community.

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Starting this week, the Costa Mesa Police Department will have a new tool

that will alert schools, businesses and the media about pressing matters

in a timely fashion.

The system, known as Technology to Recover Abducted Kids, is nothing more

than a computer, printer and a scanner. Used together, the components

allow law enforcement to respond rapidly and effectively.

"It's not a stretch of any imagination these days to have a missing child

and to inform nearly everyone within five or 10 minutes about the

abduction," said Costa Mesa police Lt. Ron Smith. "This system could be a

huge benefit in a big case, but also with the little ones, too."

Using the program, officers can create fliers in a matter of minutes

instead of the hours spent the old-fashioned way.

Not only can police send bulletins just minutes after a crime, but the

system simplifies the process. As long as police officers have a picture,

they can produce the bulletins quickly.

One key benefit of the system is the ability to send the fliers

electronically. Police departments compile a mailing list and once the

fliers are finished, they are sent to fax machines at various

organizations.

The program was launched by a Bay Area company in 1996 after the

well-publicized kidnapping and murder of Polly Klaas. More than 350

police agencies across the nation now use the system.

"Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy to cause some of the action," said

Todd Bower, executive director for the company that operates the system.

"With anything new, agencies are slow to adapt."

The city's police department and the Orange County Sheriff's Department

are the only two law enforcement agencies in the county that have

utilized the system. Smith said the department was fortunate that a

United Way grant funded the $8,000 system at no cost to the city.

The benefits are priceless, Smith said, because the bulletins won't be

limited to missing children. The system can be used if there is a murder

suspect on the loose, a bank robber on the run or an elderly person who

can't be found.

The department will also be linked with other agencies that have the

system. Crime bulletins can be distributed electronically between

agencies instead of waiting to receive it by mail.

"We hope to be the pioneers for Orange County," Smith said. "It takes

just one success story before more agencies sign on to the system."

Police are welcoming any businesses, schools or organizations to contact

the department if they are interested in being added to the list to

receive the fliers.

For more information, call (714) 754-5206.

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