New toys for boys in blue to fight crime

Canterbury police are poised to embrace the digital age.

As well as batons and pepper spray, frontline constables will soon also be armed with iPhones, Blackberrys, laptops and tablets.

The move is part of a $4.3 million nationwide rollout of mobile technology aimed at reducing crime at a lower cost.

It follows a year-long trial by police in Greymouth, Hokitika, Reefton and Westport. Much of the West Coast has no wireless internet coverage.

The Government announced the project yesterday. Operating costs to 2024 are estimated at $159m, on top of the initial $4.3m.

Prime Minister John Key said the time saved using the technology equated to about 345 extra frontline police a year.

He said 6086 officers nationwide would receive smart devices from April. This would increase to 6500 officers by mid-2014.

The technology would allow officers to check offenders' details, photographs and bail conditions while on the road, rather than using the police radio or driving back to a station.

"This means more time to focus on stopping crime and protecting communities and less time each day on administration duties at their desks," Key said.

He said the pilot indicated that police would be able to save about 30 minutes each eight-hour shift using the new technology - about 520,000 hours a year based on the initial rollout to 6086 officers.

"Put another way, that's equivalent to about 345 extra frontline police," he said.

The initiative is the first widespread rollout of cellphones in the police.

Constables use their own cellphones or share one from a pool, with only those ranked sergeant and above being allocated a work cellphone.

Canterbury district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said he saw huge benefits in smart devices for his staff.

Police project leader Inspector Simon Feltham said the new phones would come with crime-fighting applications, including one that converts a photograph of a crime scene into a floor plan and another that helps with translating.

More police-specific apps were being developed by the information technology section, he said.

The Press