Local News

Wake County, State Highway Patrol Gets Funding For Communication Improvements

Posted March 18, 2003 12:09 p.m. EST

— The Wake County Public Safety Department and the Highway Patrol announced a partnership as part of $2.5 million in federal funding for communication technology improvements.

Wake County's Public Safety Department will receive a $1 million federal grant for communication infrastructure improvements that will enable the county's law enforcement vehicles to use a wireless wideband data system for communication.

The Highway Patrol, meanwhile, will receive a $1.5-million grant to develop and implement a Voice Trunking Network (VTN), a real-time voice communication system to be used statewide. The VTN system will enable public safety officers to communicate efficiently, regardless of the frequencies upon which their systems may otherwise operate. It will be available not only for emergency purposes, but also for possible pre-disaster evacuations, planning, and traffic management.

In many parts of North Carolina, the state Highway Patrol cannot talk from car-to-car with other emergency responders like local police, fire and rescue squads.

Six months ago, Roberto Campos forced his ex-girlfriend, Lourdes Guzman, at gunpoint to drive all over the Triangle, through the northern counties and into

a deadly ending

in Virginia. North Carolina troopers said they had no direct radio contact with other agencies or with Virginia State Police as the chase played out.

There is now a plan to tie all emergency agencies together with an 800-megahertz, real-time, wireless wideband data communication system. Officials hope to have more powerful radios on special frequencies that all emergency responders can hear.

"Those people where the rubber hits the road out there at the scene being able to make the right kind of decision and sometimes when it had to come two- and three-fold, sometimes the information gets lost in the process," said Col. Richard Holden, commander of the state Highway Patrol.

As late as 2000, an area stretching from Burlington to Kinston was the only part of North Carolina where all agencies could communicate. By June 2004, officials hope to have agency-to-agency communications to run from Charlotte to the coast, which will cover 80 percent of North Carolina's population.

"It's expensive. It's taken awhile. It's a surprise to many people that they can't do this already, but we're going to build this system just as fast and efficiently as we can," U.S. Rep. David Price said.

The federal government has approved $2.5 million for an upgraded communication system. Emergency managers say with the emphasis on homeland security, the upgraded communications system is vital to North Carolina.