Archived Story

Grants fund new equipment

Published 10:00pm Saturday, October 12, 2013

The City Council retreat held Oct. 3-4 received a couple of stealth visitors.

During a police presentation, a pair of double doors in the Health and Human Services building opened, and a black contraption rolled in bearing a paper gift bag.

The claw extended toward Mayor Linda T. Johnson and opened, and the mayor gingerly removed the gift bag.

The robot is a new acquisition of the Suffolk Police Department and was purchased with a $106,000 grant that required no match by the city, Police Chief Thomas Bennett said.

“We can use the robot in a lot of situations where we wouldn’t have to send an officer in initially,” Bennett said. “We can gather intelligence with it in a number of situations where otherwise we may not be able to.”

The most obvious application for the robot would be when a person is barricaded in a building, possibly ready to harm himself or others.

The robot comes equipped with cameras, a system that allows the operator to talk to anyone near the robot and for those people to talk back, a laser beam that can be used to scare suspects and more.

Another grant purchase made recently was a set of four cameras, along with carrying cases and software. The cameras can be placed on a stand and set anywhere there is a problem and can monitor parking lots, crowds or other situations.

“There’s a whole lot of applications for it,” Bennett said. “If we had a parking lot where cars are getting broken into on a fairly consistent basis, we could put a camera in a hidden position and monitor it from afar.”

In the past, Bennett said, a police officer might have been stationed on the roof of a nearby building, but now the officer can take care of other duties.

“If we have a tactical callout, a barricaded suspect, we would put the cameras possibly around the house to keep an eye on the house,” he added. “We wouldn’t have to use our officers in that situation.”

The cameras were purchased with a $35,000 grant that also required no city match, Bennett told City Council members at the retreat.

The police department has done well at nabbing grants, Bennett added, with about $191,000 being received so far this year.

However, he added, “From a police perspective, grants are drying up, and they’re drying up quickly.”

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