Police work goes digital

New tools let officers write tickets electronically, track information


Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Sgt. Dan Edwards of the Cortland Police Department uses an automated fingerprint scanner, part of a new system for fingerprinting, mug shots and increased database accessibility to other departments around the country. The department also uses an electronic traffic ticket-writing system.

Staff Reporter

The pieces of the technology puzzle finally have come together for the Cortland Police Department, giving officers multiple new tools to better do their jobs.
Thanks to federal and state grants totaling $45,876, which were dispersed over the last year, all of the city’s police cars now are equipped with an electronic traffic ticket-writing system. Additionally, a second grant made the station home to a new electronic booking system.
“We’ve been trying to get that up and going for several months and we now have them in all of our cars,” Deputy Police Chief Frank Catalano said of the Traffic and Criminal Software (TraCS) installed in all of the city 10 patrol cars last week.
“When they make a traffic stop and write a ticket, it’s all done on the computer and the ticket is electronically transmitted to the court. I think we’re the first ones in Cortland County to use the TraCS.”
The Cortland County Sheriff’s Department applied for a similar grant in March. Undersheriff Herb Barnhart this morning said the department is making an equipment inventory and hopes to get the program up and running in its 11 cars within two weeks. An $18,000 state grant is funding the program.
State Police officials today said that they have been using the system for about a year.
Catalano explained that the new software decreases the time it takes officers to write tickets, reduces errors in ticket filing and increases officer safety by taking them off the road sooner.
Sitting in the front seat of a patrol car with a new laptop computer mounted on the dashboard, Patrolman Brad Becker demonstrated Wednesday how the new technology works. As easily as a grocery store clerk scans a gallon of milk, he used a license barcode to fill out a mock ticket.
“It’s going to be easier but it takes some getting used to,” he said. “These are all brand-new laptops. They are actually touch screen. Basically you just tap through each category and scan this (the barcode on a license) and it drops all the information off from the license.”
Every officer is issued a memory disk, using it to transport his or her ticket information from the cars into the station. It’s then that the information is sent to the court.
Each car also has a printer to provide the motorist with a paper copy of the ticket and the new system can also scan registrations into its hard drive as well as take photos.
The department recently received money for a Live Scan system for fingerprinting, mug shots and increased database accessibilities to other departments around the country.
After receiving money from a grant that paid 75 percent of the $30,000 system, the department had it installed last fall.
“It’s all electronic,” Catalano said of the Live Scan system. “Everything is in real time. We don’t have to wait days, sometimes weeks to get fingerprint checks back, we can get them back almost instantaneously.”
Sgt. Daniel Edwards said under the old system, officers took traditional ink fingerprints and then had to mail them to the state Department Criminal Justice Services. Now those prints are sent electronically, allowing the city police department to receive feedback about any individual it arrests in minutes.
All the department’s new technology has the officers excited about the increased capabilities and the decreased amount of paperwork.
“This is kind of neat here,” Becker said, pointing at the computer screen. “You can put the defendant’s statements here and you can fill in all your officer’s notes. What I like to do is attachments. I like to take a picture of the license they give me, so that way you can attach it and then you can take that to court.”



C’ville won’t get extra cut of sales tax

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — In a victory for towns and villages, the town of Cortlandville will not receive an additional 1 percent in sales tax revenue under a countywide sales tax distribution plan.
A final negotiating session Wednesday saw heated dialogue, but ultimately the county refused to budge on its assertion that the proposal simply would not pass a legislative vote.
Negotiators for the county said the Legislature will vote Sept. 28 on a proposal that divides the towns and villages’ share of sales tax revenue based solely on assessed valuation.
Under this proposal, the county would gradually reduce its share of the revenue from its current 56 percent to 52 percent by 2009.
The city would receive 18.24 percent in 2009, and the towns and villages would split the remaining 29.76 percent.
“The Legislature went out and talked to the towns and villages and there wasn’t support for this,” Legislator Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward) said after the meeting, referring to the original proposal. “It just doesn’t make sense to send something to a vote that’s not going to pass.”
Should the Legislature pass the latest proposal, the city, the only other party that will sign the contract with the county, will have the options of agreeing to the proposal or pre-empting it.
Pre-emption would mean the city would take all sales tax dollars generated within city limits, a number that likely would be significantly lower than the city’s proposed 18.24 percent share.
City Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano did not want to comment after the meeting, but during the meeting he indicated that while the city supported Cortlandville’s pursuit of more revenue, it had little choice but to support the county’s proposal.
Damiano has said that pre-emption, while sometimes a valuable negotiating tool, is not a serious option at this point.
Cortlandville Town Supervisor Dick Tupper has been heading up negotiations for the city, towns and villages with Damiano. Tupper voiced his frustration with the county’s decision during the negotiation, saying the added revenue for Cortlandville was meant to benefit the entire county.
“If we generate 2 percent more sales tax revenue for the county with the business we’re bringing in, the other towns are going to more than make up for the small amount of revenue I’m asking for,” Tupper said. “I think people have got to stop being so shortsighted — development in Cortlandville is going to help everybody.”
Homer Town Supervisor Fred Forbes, who was a member of the negotiating committee for the towns and villages, agreed with Tupper.
“All of us want more revenue for our towns, but the one unanimous feeling of the entire negotiating committee was that Cortlandville was getting shortchanged,” Forbes said during the meeting.



BorgWarner lays off 60

Staff Reporter

A slow North American automotive industry has driven BorgWarner Morse TEC to lay off about 60 local employees, said Cal Organ, vice president of human resources for the company’s plants in Cortlandville and Lansing.
“We’ve been severely affected by the cost of gasoline,” Organ said. “It has an impact on the SUV market, a major market of Morse TEC.”
The company, which is based in Auburn Hills, Mich., and makes such parts as ignitions, fuel systems, emission systems, clutches and engine systems, has laid off three employees at its Cortlandville plant, at 3690 Luker Road. The remaining 60 or so employees were laid off from the two plants in Lansing at 800 Warren Road.
Organ said he could not give the breakdown of how many were laid off from each plant in Lansing, but that the majority of the employees were laid off from Plant 2, which makes chains.
Plant 1 primarily makes transmissions components, he said.
The Cortlandville plant, which makes parts with metal powder, employs about 250 workers and the Ithaca plants about 1,600.
Employees with the least amount of experience were laid off, Organ said. The first group of workers were notified Tuesday night, he said. The rest of the employees have been notified since then, Organ said.
The laid-off employees will not receive a severance package, he said. But some of the employees will have recall rights, he said. In other words, they can be hired back by the company based on their seniority.
Also, the company will continue to pay its portion of workers’ health insurance for about six months, he said.
As a result of the layoffs, numerous employees were bumped to different shifts or lower positions, Organ said.
“Usually about three times as many employees that are laid off are impacted in some fashion,” he said.
The local plants supply parts to primarily North American automotive companies, such as Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. Those industries have suffered immensely in recent years, Organ said.
For one, sport utility vehicle sales have plummeted as the price of gas has gone up. A significant portion of the plants’ sales volume comes from a transmission chain used for four-wheel drive transfer cases, which are used in SUVs, he said.
“I think up until recently people have continued to buy lower mileage vehicles because that’s what they want,” he said. “As the price of gasoline has gotten a little more dear, people have obviously made a definite change.”


State offers $700K for Suit-Kote track

Staff Reporter

POLKVILLE — State taxpayers will pitch in about $700,000 toward construction of a railroad track extension to the Suit-Kote Corp. plant off Route 11 in Polkville.
The project will cost about $3.5 million, said Suit-Kote President Frank Suits, and will extend by about 2,800 feet a section of track from an existing “team track” rail line — a section of track used for cargo transfers between trucks and rail cars— to the company’s stone-crushing facility.
An additional 700 feet of track will extend the Port Watson Street section of track to increase the car handling capacity of the railroad.
State and local leaders announced the funding at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
The state’s Multi-Modal Transportation Program funding contributed $466,000 of public grant money to the project. Gov. George Pataki secured $216,000 of that amount and state Sen. Jim Seward obtained another $250,000.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton also made it possible for the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency to apply for $215,000 in Industrial Access Program funding, and IDA Executive Director Linda Hartsock said she had already received a commitment letter.
Under the IAP funding, 60 percent of it is in grant form, and the rest is a no-interest loan.
The IDA will not only administer the state funding, but also will own the railroad tracks, as it does all other rail tracks in the county. The New York Susquehanna & Western Railway will lease the new line from the IDA as part of a lease agreement dating back to 1982 that is renewed every 10 years, and will be responsible for the track and rail components of the depot, as well as the track construction.
The rail extension and “multi-modal” station, which permits the transfer of materials from train to truck and manufacturing facility to train, would cut down on 15,000 truck trips each year from as far away as Oklahoma and Alberta, Canada, Suits said.
The composition of the glacial deposits that Suit-Kote mines for use in its asphalt production results in a surplus of sand, Suits said, and the transfer station would also allow raw material aggregate to be shipped in from other points more efficiently than using tractor-trailers. Suits said 500,000 tons of sand would be able to be moved from the new station each year.
“Not only is it more cost-effective, but it gives us access to more distant services than are obtainable by truck,” Suits said.
The track and multi-modal station would be available for use by other businesses, Suits said. Hartsock said this morning that she had already received a phone call from an Dave Law, president of CNY Powersports, who she said is interested in the line.
Hartsock said the administrative work to be done by the state takes at least six months, and Suits said he hopes construction will be completed by the fall 2007, but there are many factors involved.
Although the extension would have to be constructed through a piece of property owned by Cortland Bulk Milk Products, Suits said Suit-Kote was in negotiations with the company and that the two entities had a “good relationship.”


23 cats taken from Wheeler Ave. house euthanized

Staff Reporter

Twenty-three of the 275 cats found in a Sept. 1 raid on a Wheeler Avenue house and an adjacent clinic building have been euthanized because attending veterinarians deemed them “dangerous,” and seven others have died or been euthanized because of serious medical problems.
It was also disclosed today during a press conference that during the initial investigation of the property, 19 cats were found dead in a freezer. Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine initially concluded they starved to death before they were placed in the freezer. A kitten was also found dead in the house.
Following medical evaluations at the former Cortlandville Fire Station on Route 13 — where the Cortland County SPCA, other veterinary professionals and volunteers are caring for the animals — 8 percent of the cats tested positive for feline leukemia and 4 percent tested positive for feline AIDS.
Twenty-six cats were initially determined to be feral, and therefore too dangerous to be handled by professional and lay personnel. However, over the course of two weeks, three of the animals calmed down enough to be classified as acceptable pets.
The veterinarian who had been overseeing the care of the cats, Bill Cadwallader, of Homer, said these cats presented a danger to their caretakers, and attacked when their cages were opened. “Not only were they a risk, a danger to the caretakers, they were a risk to the other cats in the environment, and would be a danger if adopted out into the community-at-large,” Cadwallader said after the press conference.
Of the cats that were euthanized for behavioral concerns, 30 percent were infected with feline leukemia, and 20 percent were infected with feline AIDS, while three of them tested positive for both of the terminal illnesses. None tested positive for rabies.
Two seriously ill cats were taken to the Cortland Animal Hospital on Sept. 6, where they died overnight, and five cats were euthanized for medical reasons.