Pinellas County (Fl) Sheriff's Office fights drug trafficking and other crime with advanced computerized network. GTE provides law enforcement agencies with seven-node Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network

IRVING, Texas -- Piecing together bits of information from multiple databases to build a criminal case is one reason why law enforcement agencies in west central Florida are using the Information Highway as well as old-fashioned shoe leather to combat crime.

Under a program funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in Washington, D.C., GTE will establish a seven-node Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network to link the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office with the St. Petersburg Police Department and other law enforcement agencies in Hillsborough, Manatee and Pasco counties.

This multi-million dollar ATM network represents GTE's first commercial ATM customer in Florida, and is the nation's first federally funded ATM network dedicated to crime fighting.

Three of the seven ATM nodes were recently installed, and connect the Pinellas Sheriff's Office administrative building, Pinellas Sheriff's Office Narcotics division and the St. Petersburg Police Department's Vice and Narcotics division. The other four nodes will be installed by the second quarter of 1996.

Improving a community's quality of life by deterring and reducing crime is important, said GTE ATM product manager Hugh Oakes.

"GTE is helping the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department take a large bite out of crime," said Oakes. "This ATM network gives local law enforcement officials a new, powerful weapon to use in the battle against individuals who break the law."

"Police officers must talk to each other to solve crimes. This ATM network facilitates the very necessary communication in a modern and more timely fashion, ""said Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice.

As a result of the new network, law enforcement officials in west central Florida will be able to rapidly obtain and share information pertinent to preventing and solving crimes. Via the ATM network, officials will be able to view video lineups of suspects, mugshots, fingerprints, surveillance video and large data files from their computers. Because of the speed and clarity by which ATM transmits video images and data between remote locations, officials will be able to more quickly conduct investigations and track down criminals.

"Advanced communications solutions such as ATM do not replace detectives, their legwork or their abilities," said Captain Dan Wiggins of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Information Management Division. "ATM does, however, make the lives of law enforcement officials simpler, and helps them do their jobs better."

Wiggins explained that ATM will help unify law enforcement's efforts in the war against drugs.

"We're all chasing the same people and drug cartels, but we haven't been using our resources effectively. We've kept pretty much too ourselves," said Wiggins. "We have our individual databases, our own narcotics detectives, and we meet monthly to share information. That's grossly inadequate, considering the level of sophistication the drug cartels have.

"For example, surveillance in high drug areas could be shared in real time over the network while you sit in your St. Petersburg office watching a drug transaction in Tampa. People we're dealing with don't honor jurisdictional boundaries -- the same group dealing here may be dealing in another city, or be part of a larger group dealing in an entire metropolitan area," Wiggins added. "If we identify those people jointly, we'll save considerable time, effort and money in the investigation and probably be a lot more successful."

"I used to have to copy a report and drive to other agencies to have a meeting. Once there, I might discover I needed other resource material and have to drive back and get it," said Detective Leonard Leedy with the St. Petersburg Police Department. "With this ATM network, I use the computer workstation to videoconference with another detective in one of the computer's windows, open a second window to view the report, view a mugshot file from another, and use a fourth window to see a fingerprint file, all at once. The capability of this network is enormous."

Director Al Bradenstein of the Drug Czar's office welcomes the use of technology to curb crime.

"Crime occurs in all areas without regard to geographical boundaries," said Bradenstein. "With the support of ATM technology, law enforcement agencies can cross those same boundaries to keep criminals off the street and behind bars."

GTE launched its first ATM technology trial in 1993, and today offers commercial ATM service in 11 states.

GTE Telephone Operations is the largest U.S.-based local telephone company, providing voice, video and data products and services through more than 23 million access lines in portions of the United States, Canada, South America, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Its parent organization, GTE Corporation, is the fourth-largest publicly owned telecommunications company in the world.