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Monday, November 18, 2013 at 8:05 pm

County on pace to have new communications system in place by Feb. 10 deadline

post by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office

Work is proceeding pretty much on schedule for the county's new emergency communication system and phase I should be up and running by the Feb. 10 deadline, Steven Sharpe told members of the Public Service Committee today.

The necessary equipment has been installed on the towers at Cedar Street and in Pembroke, and the Pavilion tower should be completed shortly.

The microwave-transmission system should be operational soon.

New radios have been installed in more than 200 town and county highway vehicles. Installation started today with Batavia Fire Department's mobile units and volunteer fire departments will start getting their new radios soon.

Sheriff Gary Maha also shared with the committee that Uniden announced over the weekend a new emergency frequency scanner that will be compatible the Phase II P-25 TDMA system being installed by Harris RF.

The new scanners from Uniden should solve the problem being faced by local media, off-duty emergency responders and others who need access to police and fire communications to help them serve the public.

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg asked Maha if the media will have the same access to communications as under the current system and Maha said he believed media outlets would.

The new Harris system makes it easier for law enforcement to encrypt communications, but Maha said encryption will be limited to law enforcement situations and not widely or regularly used.

One hold up with getting equipment installed on the Pavilion tower has been negotiations with American Tower Asset, the company that owns the tower. American Tower apparently wanted a lease fee to have the equipment installed on the tower, but Sharpe believed the company had previously agreed to provide such access for free.

Today, Sharpe said, he obtained the public documents showing that American Tower agreed in 1998 to allow Pavilion fire and Genesee County public safety agencies to use the tower facility at no cost as a term of getting approval to build the tower.

The county is also planning to build -- as part of phase II -- towers in Darien, Bergen and Alabama.

The Darien tower installation was somewhat delayed a few weeks ago when prehistoric human artifacts were found at the site. Researchers have determined, according to Sharpe, that the site was neither a burial ground nor an encampment, but rather a place were items were discarded along a travel path.

Previously:

Friday, November 1, 2013 at 9:16 am

Sheriff's communications to dispatch all State Police calls in Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, State Police

Press release:

Effective November 1, the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center, under the administration of the Genesee County Sheriff, will begin dispatching Troopers for the New York State Police Batavia Barracks. Currently, the State Police dispatches Troopers from the State Police Troop Headquarters on West Saile Drive but effective November 1, all police calls for service will be transferred to the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center (9-1-1 Center) for dispatch. Currently, all cellular 9-1-1 calls within Genesee County are received by the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center. Staff at the State Police Barracks for non-emergency business may still be contacted by calling (585) 343-2200.

The Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center (9-1-1 Center) currently dispatches the Batavia Police, Le Roy Police, Genesee County Sheriff’s patrols and all fire and ambulance services within the County. The 9-1-1 Center maintains a staff of approximately 16 full-time and five part-time civilian dispatchers and each shift is staffed with three to four dispatchers. The Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center is an accredited 9-1-1 Center by the New York State Sheriffs’ Association Accreditation Program and meets all the New York State adopted standards for emergency dispatching.

“Our dispatchers have the highest level of training available and our Center is in compliance with the most stringent requirements for emergency dispatch set forth by New York State,” said Sheriff Gary T. Maha.

Sheriff Maha said, “The partnership with the State Police comes at a time when governments are being asked to cut expenses and share services. It just makes sense to combine dispatching into one central location where future equipment and resources can be dedicated to a single site.

A full upgrade in radios and towers for Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center to Dispatch State Police communication is currently under way to comply with federal mandates for narrow banding. The $10.8 million project, contracted to Harris, will narrow the current bandwidth for police communications to free up additional spectrum for first responders and private industry. The project also updates the current 9-1-1 Center to receive Next Generation 9-1-1 calls. The project has a target date of February 2014 for partial completion and June 2014 for full completion.

State Police Captain Craig Hanesworth said, “I believe that this consolidation of dispatch services provides the citizens of Genesee County with the best in police service and response times while also providing for an increase in the safety of our officers. In addition, this consolidation allows us to reassign Troopers to road patrol functions that would have otherwise been delegated to dispatch and clerical administrative functions. This move should help increase police coverage and response times in the County."

For any police, fire or EMS emergency, citizens should call 9-1-1. Non-emergency police-related calls should be made as follows:

Batavia City Police, 345-6350
Le Roy Village Police, 768-2527
Sheriff/State Police, 343-5000

 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 4:17 pm

It turns out, nobody currently makes scanners for the county's new emergency radio system

post by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office

A $10.8 million upgrade to the county's emergency radio system is expected to greatly improve the reliability and efficiency of emergency communication, but the unintended consequence is that citizens, off-duty first responders and the media could all be in the dark for months or longer once the new system is fully operational.

It's a bit of a surprise to everybody involved, but the new technology being installed by Rochester-based Harris RF is incompatible with even the most advanced consumer scanners currently on the market.

And when new scanners are released -- perhaps as early as the first part of the year -- they are likely to cost as much as $500 to $600 each.

Sheriff Gary Maha is a big believer in the idea that citizens with scanners help solve crimes.  Clearly, when he spoke with The Batavian in the spring about the new radio system, he didn't anticipate the new technology would be incompatible with existing digital/trunking scanners.

"We're few and far between out there," Maha said. "We need all the eyes we can possibly have. If we have a bank robbery, we put that information out over the air so some citizen down the road may see the vehicle we want and can call 9-1-1. It's a benefit to us to have the people out there watching. They're our eyes and ears out there."

In recent weeks, we've had discussions with Maha about the situation and he said he's interested in finding a solution.

Getting scanners into the hands of media outlets is one thing. One solution that's been used in other parts of the country is for local law enforcement to lease emergency radios, with the outgoing transmission capability disabled, to news outlets. These radios cost in the neighborhood of $4,000 each, so it's still an expensive solution.

Another solution is putting streaming feeds of emergency transmissions from the P25 system on the county's Web site. But it's unclear at this point if the county has the available bandwidth or necessary technology to make this happen.

A Web-based solution would help both media outlets and make transmissions available to all county residents who care to tune in.

The Sheriff along with Undersheriff William Sheron met yesterday with executives at Harris.

Sheron said that Harris indicated it's a problem beyond the scope of their work, but said they are aware of other jurisdictions doing exactly what the Sheriff is considering.

"We're certainly aware of the issue and are interested in finding a solution," Sheron said.

Genesee County isn't the only jurisdiction facing this issue, as more and more agencies switch to the new technology and RadioReference.com's forums are filled with discussions about the situation.

What The Batavian has been able to piece together from the forum posts as well as interviewing Gerry Oliver, owner of G&G Communications in Le Roy, is that:

  • A company called GRE America made a radio that was designed to be compatible with Phase II technology, but the company went out of business. Its radio was imperfect technology and needed improvements and wouldn't necessarily work with Harris RF communication systems. BRS Phase II TDMA radios can be found on Ebay, but you take your chances buying one.
  • A company, The Whistler Group, Inc., has acquired GRE's intellectual property and is planning to enter into the scanner business. It didn't specifically announce a Phase II scanner, but presumably they'll bring one to market, perhaps before the end of March.
  • Representatives from Uniden have dropped hints in Radio Reference that the company -- which is the largest manufacturer of scanners -- is close to announcing a Phase II scanner. Estimates of when it will go to market range from fiscal Q1 2014 through the end of 2014.
  • Oliver believes that even after the switch-over, fire dispatch will remain on channel 4612, which means scanners currently programmed to pick up that channel will still be able to hear the fire dispatcher. There just won't be any chatter from emergency responders in the field answering the calls for people still listening on old scanners.

Radio Reference is an organization of ham radio operators and scanner enthusiasts. Through RF, volunteers from around the nation make their local emergency communications available on the radioreference.com Web site. Every smartphone app that allows people to listen to police and fire calls on their iPhones and Droids uses RR feeds, so if RR doesn't have working Phase II scanners, then those apps won't work for P25 jurisdictions.

Harris officials would not comment for this story.

The county has until March 1 to stop using one of its current 800 mhz channel so that the bandwidth becomes available for an inter-operable communication channel for federal Homeland Security.

Steven Sharpe, director of emergency communication, said installation begins next month, but current scanners will work on existing emergency channels until the P25 infrastructure is in place and operational.

Migration to the new system for emergency users should begin in December.

Beyond that the schedule of the transition depends on other factors -- from FCC licensing to tower crew availability -- though all equipment is scheduled to be installed by Feb. 1, giving the county one month to meet the 800 mhz channel deadline.

What happens at that point largely depends on what the county can make available to citizens and media for monitoring emergency transmissions, and what Whistler and Uniden make commercially available for purchase.

Oliver said there are a lot of people concerned about the issue, and people should be concerned.

"This is a public safety issue and it's a public information issue," Oliver said. "There's the average listener who pays taxes and thinks they have a right to listen in, but there's also the issue of firemen, off-duty police officers and EMTs -- how are they going to listen?

"I hope there's a solution for safety sake," he added. "Let's say I'm an (off duty) EMT and I live down the street from a call, a scanner might tell me, do I respond? What should I do if I hear nobody's responding? Those are the people who need scanners."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 8:50 pm

2012 was another busy year for the Sheriff's Office

post by Howard B. Owens in annual report, Sheriff's Office

The Sheriff's Office once again experienced an increase in calls for service in 2012.

There were 27,787 calls in 2012 compared to 25,923 in 2011 and 21,334 in 2010.

The latest numbers are in the recently released Sheriff's Office annual report.

Here is some of the other data contained in the report.

Jail:

  • The jail served 83,497 meals;
  • The inmate food expense was $138,361;
  • The inmate medical expense was $184,713;
  • A total of 1,146 inmates were booked;
  • The jail population over the course of the year went from 85 inmates to 69 inmates;
  • Corrections officers completed 808 hours of training;
  • The jail collected $61,000 in fees for such things as housing Wyoming County inmates, federal inmates, state prisoner transports and the inmate telephone system ($22,000).

Civil Service:

  • There were 511 summons/supoenas served;
  • For Family Court, 964 summons;
  • Evictions, 138.

Law enforcement:

  • Deputies received 5,362 hours of training on about 30 topics, including breath analyis, criminal street gang investigations, DNA evidence, domestic violence, sex offender cases, DWI enforcement, terrorist bombing, awareness, workplace violence, drug identification, active shooter training, police mental health, child abuse and human trafficking;
  • 438 active warrants were cleared;
  • The Stop DWI program received $154,799 in grants;
  • 200 child IDs were processed;
  • Department vehicles traveled 812,486 miles;
  • DWI arrests -- 150, with 29 being in the 21-24 age range, 113 males, 51 on Saturdays and 14 felony DWIs;
  • Refusal to take breath test -- 22;
  • Total breath tests administered was 138, with 15 reading .00, six .08, 11 at .14, 15 at .15, 13 at .16 and nine at .22.

Accident statistics:

  • There were 10 fatal accidents and 11 total fatalities;
  • There were 136 hit-and-run accidents;
  • There were 192 personal injury accidents;
  • Accidents involving an animal -- 596;
  • Alcohol related accidents -- 52.

Citations:

  • 204, expired registration
  • 68, uninsured motor vehicle
  • 31, tinted windows
  • 35, driver's view obstructed
  • 124, unlicensed operator
  • 142, aggravated unlicensed operation
  • 29, leaving the scene of a property damage accident
  • 224, disobey traffic control device
  • 57, failure to keep right
  • 69, following too closely
  • 42, failure to yield right of way
  • 307, speeding over 55 mph
  • 404, speeding in zone
  • 3, driving too slowly
  • 56, driving while on mobile phone
  • 293, no seat belt

Criminal complaints:

  • 36, aggravated harassment
  • 2, arson
  • 11, bad check
  • 131, burglary
  • 36, criminal possession of a controlled substance
  • 61, criminal contempt
  • 118, criminal mischief
  • 29, disorderly conduct
  • 20, endangering the welfare of a child
  • 49, fraud
  • 1, gambling
  • 105, grand larceny
  • 138, harassment
  • 419, larceny
  • 283, liquor law violations
  • 1, motor vehicle theft
  • 9, rape
  • 16, sexual abuse
  • 65, trespass
  • 83, unlawful possession of marijuana
  • 1,904 total criminal complaints

Investigations

  • The Local Drug Enforcement Task Force initiated 73 cases, made 71 drug arrests, with 16 cases pending and 14 search warrants executed;
  • The task force handled 57 vice cases with 44 arrests;
  • There were 17 polygraph tests given;
  • Investigators handled 118 misdemenaor cases;
  • There were 262 pistol permit records checks;
  • A 20-year-old cold case was solved when Deputy Chris Erion used a polygraph  and a child abuse suspect confessed;
  • The juvenile section handled 199 cases.

The 9-1-1 Call Center:

  • 49,846 calls for police, 2,342 for fire and 8,459 for EMS, for 56,440 total;
  • The Sheriff's Office received 23,231 calls for service; BPD, 14,749, Le Roy PD 3,562;
  • Dispatchers received 29,156 inbound seven-digit calls;
  • Dispatchers completed 580 training hours;

Court Security:

  • 600 knives were found during screening, 33 razors, 108 scissors, two drug paraphernalia and 17 "other" weapons;
  • 56,917 people were screened and 19,478 items scanned.

Animal Control:

  • 45 animal bite cases
  • 465 cats adopted
  • 21 cats euthanized
  • 538 cats impounded
  • 233 dogs adopted
  • 16 dogs euthanized
  • 429 dogs impounded
  • 16 livestock cases investigated
  • 239 lost animal cases investigated

Genesee Justice:

  • In its 14th year;
  • 305 victims of serious and violent crimes served;
  • 18 compensation claims filed;
  • 28 clients assisted in family court;
  • 218 in-person counseling;
  • 782 phone counseling;
  • The Child Advocacy Center served 112 children in Genesee County and conducted 54 sexual abuse examinations, 84 forensic interviews, made 38 therapy referrals.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm

County Public Service Committee OKs new K-9 unit

post by Bonnie Marrocco in K-9, K-9 Pharoah, Sheriff's Office

The Sheriff’s Office has a new K-9 team to replace current police K-9, Pharoah, and his handler, Deputy Brian Thompson. The 11-year-old Czech German Shepherd is retiring and his handler is relinquishing his K-9 assignment after 13 years to return to road patrol.

Thompson has nothing but praise for Pharoah, whom he described as a great tracker, good with children and an excellent drug-detection dog.

“Pharoah is an awesome dog and you would never know that he’ll be 12 in the fall,” Thompson said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the County's Public Service Committee approved $13,346 for a new police K-9, training for a new K-9 handler and additional equipment and supplies. The funds come from money donated to the Genesee County K-9 Fund, as well as funds from Forfeiture of Crime Proceeds.

The K-9 team is used for search and suspect apprehension, locating missing persons including missing children and Alzheimer patients, contraband and drug searches, tactical tracking, evidence recovery, building searches, patrol, and public presentations. 

Pharoah began working with Thompson in November 2010 and was donated by Niagara Falls Police Department. He is certified in patrol, tracking, handler protection, narcotics detection, building searches and apprehension. Pharoah and Thompson will work until the dog and handler are trained and ready to take over.

“Training lasts for 15 weeks, from September to December,” Thompson said.

Pharoah's retirement will be spent with the Thompson family.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Sheriff's Office to participate in seat belt and child safety seat enforcement effort

post by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office

Press release:

The Sheriff’s Office will participate in the statewide seat belt enforcement mobilization, which will run from May 20 through June 1, which is designed to further improve highway safety. The initiative will urge motorists to buckle their safety belts or face receiving a ticket. The message is simple: “Click It or Ticket." The Buckle Up New York “Click It or Ticket” enforcement and education initiative sends a clear message that seat belts and child safety seats save lives. New York State has been a leader in passenger safety restraint since enacting the very first seat belt law in the country in 1984 by utilizing efforts that combines public education with increased police enforcement of New York’s seat belt law.

Under New York State law, safety restraint use is required for: all front seat occupants regardless of age; all rear seat passengers under 16 years of age; children under age 4 who must be restrained in a federally approved child safety seat. New York’s zero-tolerance policy for seat belt violations means that violators will receive a ticket if stopped for not using a safety restraint. The fine for such violations is up to $100 if a motorist is stopped for having a person less than 16 years old unrestrained, plus 3 points on their license.

According to state law, motorists can be stopped in New York by a police officer for not wearing their seat belts; another violation is not necessary to initiate the stop. Properly secured children will be a priority for the Sheriff’s Office during this enforcement effort. If there is any question as to the proper installation of your child’s safety seat, call the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office at 585-343-5000 to set up an appointment to have your safety seat and its installation inspected by a certified technician. Please help us make the highways of Genesee County the safest they can be.

Monday, April 22, 2013 at 9:19 pm

The former Sheriff's Office building owes some of its grandure to Medina sandstone

post by Howard B. Owens in history, Sheriff's Office

Tom Rivers is publishing a series of stories for OrleansHub.com about grand buildings in Western New York that were built with Medina sandstone.

Today: The beautiful building at 14 West Main Street that was once the Sheriff's Office and is now home to Genesee Justice and connected to the jail.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 8:43 am

Grants and bond will pay for $10.8 million upgrade to emergency communications system

post by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office

The county's 22-year-old emergency communication system is antiquated and flawed, according to Sheriff Gary Maha, which is why the county receiving more than $7 million in grants to help pay for a new system is a welcome turn of events.

The county has wanted to upgrade the system for a few years, but the project is expensive.

In all, between the grants and a $4.2 million county bond, more than $10.8 million will be spent on the new system.

"The low-band paging system is antiquated," Maha said. "I don't know if you ever listen to some of these monitors that the firemen are carrying, but you can hardly hear them at times, especially on the outskirts of the county. We've been working on it for years and finally we got a revenue source through the state and NextTel to put toward this project."

The state grant of more than $5 million is coming through the Department of Homeland Security and the FCC is requiring NexTel to help pay for rebanding of 800 MHz systems where their communication system conflicts with emergency communication systems.

Still, the county will need to borrow $4.2 million to pay for the entire system.

"We've been working with a system for the last 22 years where we have limited coverage," said Steve Sharpe, director of emergency communications. "What we're trying to do is capitalize on the reconfiguration and the grant, combining all these funding resources together to build out a system that meets our public safety needs for our responders in the field.

"That's the end goal because this isn't just about the 800 MHz; it's also about VHF high band paging. We're trying to build a more reliable paging network for our responders, especially our fire and EMS folks. At the end of the day it's about life safety."

On Wednesday, the Ways and Means Committee passed a series of resolutions that authorize the county to proceed with the upgrades, from accepting the grants, to issuing the bands and approving a contract with Harris Corporation, out of Rochester, to build the new system.

A key factor behind the availability of Homeland Security funds for the project is the push to build a nationwide 800 Mhz channel that all responders can share regardless of jurisdiction or agency in an emergency.

Use of the inter-operable channel in Western New York is being held up, at least in part, by Genesee County, because the county is using the 800 MHz band specified for the channel.

This project will move that portion of the county's emergency communication off that band to another band.

Part of the upgrade project is to build three new radio antenna towers in the county.

There are three now: Cedar Street (pictured), Pavilion and Pembroke. 

The Sheriff's Office is looking at potential new locations in Darien, Bergen and Alabama.

All of these changes of course, will effect the hundreds of county residents who regularly monitor scanner channels.

Residents with analog scanners will need to buy new scanners and have them programmed to the correct channels. 

Public use of scanners is a benefit to local law enforcement, Maha said, and the new system's ability to encrypt transmissions will be used only when necessary.

"We will have encryption available, but it's not our intent to be on encryption all the time," Maha said. "There may be times when we need to go on encryption, but people out there who have scanners will be able to continue listening to the day-to-day activities."

People with scanners, Maha said, help solve crimes.

"We're few and far between out there," Maha said. "We need all the eyes we can possibly have. If we have a bank robbery, we put that information out over the air so some citizen down the road may see the vehicle we want and can call 9-1-1. It's a benefit to us to have the people out there watching. They're our eyes and ears out there."

Monday, April 15, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Deputies handle more felony cases in first quarter of 2013, Sheriff reports

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Sheriff's Office

In the first quarter of 2013, felony investigations in Genesee County have increased 71 percent over the same period in 2012, according to Sheriff Gary Maha.

Maha delivered a report today to the Legislature's Public Service Committee.

The increase (52 cases up to 89) seems to be the result of more burglary and grand larceny reports.

There have also been more sex-related criminal reports.

For the office of investigations, there's also been a significant increase in pistol license background checks.

For the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force, the most prevalent drugs seen locally are cocaine and marijuana, but there has also been an ongoing increase in the possession and sale of prescription medications, particular hydrocodone and OxyContin.

For road patrol, deputies responded to 7,032 incidents during the quarter. That's a 10-percent hike over 2012.

However, 9-1-1 calls dropped 11 percent year-over-year to 6,033.

Non-9-1-1 calls are up 10 percent to 30,472.

At the same time, the jail population has dropped from an average of 76 inmates to 72, though the female population has increased from 12 to 15.

The Sheriff expects the Commission of Correction to recommend adding seven corrections officers (which includes two supervisor positions).

More female inmates, since they must be housed at facilities in neighboring counties, could add $150,000 in expenses.

Genesee Justice currently has a caseload of 594. There were 203 new case files opened in the first quarter, compared to 214 a year ago.

The Child Advocacy Center handled 65 new cases, compared to 57 a year ago.

For Sheriff's Office administration, the Sheriff continues to work on fundraising for a new K-9. The villages of Bergen and Oakfield renewed their patrol contracts.

Maha anticipates a need for more seasonal deptuties to handle the Darien Lake concert series.  Last year, there were 10 positions. He's requesting 15. Darien Lake reimburses the county for the cost of these positions.

Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 10:30 am

Sheriff's Office receives $5.4 million grant for radio system upgrade

post by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office

Press Release:

Genesee County will receive $5,435,095 in grant funding from the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Interoperable Communications to upgrade the county’s 800 MHz Public Safety Radio System. Legislature Chair Mary Pat Hancock was notified of the grant award in a letter dated Feb. 4, 2013, from the New York State Division of Homeland Security.

The funding will be used to upgrade the County’s Public Safety Radio System from an analog system to an interoperable digital system. Sheriff Gary T. Maha stated, “The upgrade is necessary to accommodate public safety radio coverage needs, radio tower sites, radio infrastructure, first responder notifications and subscriber radios. There have been some deficiencies in our current radio system which must be corrected.”

The grant funding is part of the $102 million recently awarded to counties through the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant Program.  Genesee County’s application for this grant funding was submitted by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

The Genesee County Legislature Ways and Means Committee, during its meeting on Feb. 20, 2013, recommended establishing a capital project for the radio system upgrade.

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