HCPD get vehicle, tech upgrades

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The Henry County Police Department is getting a boost in some of its most important equipment after a couple of recent decisions by the Henry County Board of Commissioners.

An officer sits in a new police car that has been outfitted with software for extracting information from cell phones. Special photo

The board approved the purchase of updated universal forensic extraction devices (UFED) for investigative purposes as well as a new truck for the SWAT team.

The UFED and its software work together to extract information from cell phones. The device is designed to work with more than 1,800 smartphones and virtually every cellular carrier in operation.

A cell phone contains a great deal of information that can be used in the investigation of a crime, such as a contact list, call history, text messages photos and video. Data on a phone can also pinpoint the location of its user at certain times. All of this is stored in the phone’s internal memory, removable memory and SIM card.

The UFED can retrieve information that was thought to be deleted from a phone as well. Data can be saved to an SD card in the field or directly to a computer in the police lab.

The equipment was originally purchased by the HCPD four years ago with a three-year contract for software updates. As technology continues to advance, so does the equipment needed to continue this work, and the department’s old devices and software had become out of date.

“We’re trying to get ahead of the curve by doing this,” according to an HCPD spokesman.

The total cost for the equipment is $22,269.40 over three years. The purchase was approved unanimously.

While the UFED was less than five years old, the department has been using a 29-year-old converted bread truck as a SWAT van. The lack of air conditioning makes it necessary to open the rear doors when the vehicle is parked, but that allows diesel fumes into the passenger area. The vehicle also does not have heat for the winter season.

There have been numerous maintenance issues of late, and the vehicle has been towed to fleet service a few times, according to an HCPD spokesman.

The commissioners approved the purchase of a 2016 Ford T-350 high-roof extended-length cargo van at a cost of $35,102. The vote was unanimous.

In other business, the board allocated $143,131,68 in additional funds for the relocation of Henry County Water Authority utilities at the intersection of East Lake Road and Hwy. 20, where a major traffic improvement project is underway. Work has been delayed there because of the fear of damaging a water line. About two million gallons per day moves through that area according to the HCWA, and county officials said damage there would cause a traffic danger as well as a water problem for many residents.

Two local parks are receiving lighting improvements. The county will spend $27,500 using SPLOST IV money for lights at a new ball field at North Ola Park, and another $22,900 is going toward security lighting at the Jason T. Harper Arena at Heritage Park, where there have been a number of break-ins recently that officials hope the additional lighting will help prevent.

The board approved the purchase of two used/demo 2013 ambulances for the Henry County Fire Department. These vehicles have only 6,000 to 10,000 miles on them from traveling to event shows, and they can be placed into service in about four weeks instead of the several months typically needed to get a new or remounted ambulance ready.

The average mileage right now with the HCFD ambulance fleet is just over 150,000 and the average for the reserve fleet is more than 196,000.