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Homeland Security/Lockheed Martin Provide Total Surveillance For Wisconsin Town

Manteca Bulletin | April 21 2005

RIPON -- By August, it would be a serious mistake to rob a bank in Ripon.

Tuesday night, the Ripon City Council -- with Curt Pernice absent -- unanimously approved an agenda item that allowed Mayor Chuck Winn to sign an agreement with Lockheed Martin that will get the ball rolling on the installation of a communications system previously utilized by the military that will allow police officers to see live feeds of various locations throughout town.

Ripon banks have expressed interest in being part of the new system, which in case of emergency, will allow officers to see exactly what's going in the event of a burglary, robbery, or hostage situation.

Local parks, various intersections throughout town, and other areas like the Jack Tone Commercial area have also been discussed as possible locations for cameras that will give officers real-time feeds.

"This isn't a 'big brother' situation that we have here," said Councilman Red Nutt. "This is another tool for our law enforcement officers."

For the last 18-months, Police Chief Richard Bull has been investigating the technology -- even going so far as to take a recent trip back to Cocoa Beach, Florida, with City Administrator Leon Compton to see exactly how well the system works in the field.

Bull spoke to the Council about the benefits and technological advancements that the system has over the current communications that the department utilizes, including the capability to take a thumb print from a suspect in the field to find out their true identity.

"This is basically opening up a whole new world," Bull said. "This is something that is cutting edge, and will allow us to get in on the ground floor with something that is great for the safety of our community as a whole."

But it's not just the Police Department that will benefit from the 2.4 GHz system.

Public Works vehicles will also be outfitted with the necessary tools to be able to tap into the system that will compliment Ripon's Geographic Information System -- giving them the ability to search for underground utilities and the location of other information not typically available while in the field.

The Ripon Consolidated Fire District will also stands to benefit.

The system, which was originally engineered for use by the United States Military during battlefield operations, has since been taken over by Motorola -- a company renowned for their innovations and leadership in the communications sector.

Lockheed Martin was hired by the City as a independent Information Technology consultant on the subject, and helped Compton and Bull find the system that is the right fit for a community like Ripon.

Unlike other wireless options, the Motorola MESH system is actually a self-forming and self-healing network that will expand when more and more devices are utilized within a given area -- giving it it's name.

After the three phases of installation are complete, the entire community of Ripon will be on-line with the system as a virtual wireless hot-spot -- giving city-equipped vehicles and Lockheed Martin engineers the chance to iron-out any receiving bugs in various pockets throughout town.

Unlike other wireless options, the MESH systems is virtually hack-proof, and only specified computers and communications devices will be able to access the information exchanged.

A Federal Homeland Security grant of $75,000 -- which officials expect to receive by time the program is up and running by the projected date of August 2 -- offset the total cost of the system to just over $472,000.

City Administrator Leon Compton will handle the financing for the City with funding from a multitude of different account sources.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company representative Mark Hendrickson was also on hand during Tuesday's meeting to donate a check of $10,000 to Ripon for their system. The PG&E spokesman actually ran into Compton and Bull in a Dallas airport when they were on their way back from Florida, and verbally committed to helping Ripon in any way possible with the installation of the wireless receivers on street lights throughout town.