ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It may look like your typical smartphone, but law enforcement says a new device helps them respond more quickly and efficiently to emergencies at large scale events. Now, State Police is trying out the new device at this year’s fair and, already, they say the new technology is priceless.
It can happen in the blink of an eye. Your child goes missing in a sea of people.
“Losing your child for a second to five minutes is terrifying,” said New Mexico State Police Lieutenant Jeff Rey.
Tracking him down at an event like the state fair may seem impossible, until now.
“We’re able to snap a picture of that one, send it to every officer and within five to ten minutes, that child is located,” Lt. Rey explained.
It’s all thanks to a new tool called a cellular on wheels or COW, for short.
“No matter what may happen to say your Verizon or T-Mobile sites, we will always have contact with each other,” said Rey. “It’s just our own LTE network that allows us to communicate with just whoever’s on the network.”
Just like a cellphone, officers are able to send messages with the touch of a button, whether it’s for a missing child or someone who’s been trespassed from the fair. Yet, these texts are on an encrypted network and are only sent to those with COWs.
Lt. Jeff Rey says not only do the new gadgets help them better communicate, he says they also allow them to use their resources more efficiently.
“We’re able to see where our officers are on the ground,” Rey said.
With an eye on all of his officers, Lt. Rey says he’s able to minimize response times.
“I can see on the map behind me where the officer is, the closest officer and send them to there,” said Rey. “I don’t have to scramble to get on the radio and start asking…If they do not know where that location is I can tag it on a map.”
Lt. Rey says the devices make all the difference when it comes to not only public safety but officer safety.
“Just to have a line of communication amongst all law enforcement, you can’t put a price on that,” said Rey. “Even if the officer can’t communicate, we know where that officer is. You can’t put a price on that.”
It’s why State Police plan on using the COWs at every large scale event in New Mexico from here on out.
“It’s a lifesaver,” Rey said.
The COW’s are in a trial period here in New Mexico, as part of a federal plan to build out permanent public safety networks nationwide.
That amounts to establishing towers like any commercial provider would have– Verizon, AT&T– except these would be strictly for law enforcement and emergency responders.
The state’s Chief Information Officer and Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Information Technology Darryl Ackley says New Mexico has been working on a public safety broadband for years. In fact, he says we’re early adopters.
Ackley tells KRQE News 13 we received a federal grant in 2011 to start the project. Now, we’re one of five states in the country receiving money from the feds for the project.
“I think we saw, as a state, the need to move into this arena from a technology perspective ahead of the curve,” said Ackley.
Ackley said a permanent version of the cell on wheels is expected to go up near the southern border in the coming years. News 13 asked him about cost once for these devices and the network once this federal grant has run out. He said the hope is that the cost is close to what emergency responders already pay to use their smart phones for work.
Ackley said it’s important New Mexico be a part of this trial.
“Nationwide, when First Net builds out, of course, emphasis, you can imagine will be placed on a lot of the large, metropolitan cities. By us being at the table and involved in an early stage, we’re ensuring that New Mexico and other rural states like New Mexico that are positioned as being adequately represented at the federal level,” explained Ackley.
First Net is the broadband provider for the public safety network.
Yet, before the project expands, you expect to see the COW’s. New Mexico State Police will have them out in just a few weeks at Balloon Fiesta.