Pubdate: Thu, 03 Jun 1999
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 1999, New Haven Register
Author: Michelle Tuccitto


SEYMOUR - The Seymour Police Department will soon have a new portable
thermal imaging device that can help officers find burglars, missing people
and drugs.

The Department of the Army Counter Drug Office of Arizona is paying for the
equipment and the training of one officer.

"It'll be an important tool for us," said Police Chief Michael Metzler.
"Burglars often run into the woods when police arrive at a scene. With this,
we can scan the area and detect their body heat."

It'll also be useful for finding lost children, or elderly victims of
Alzheimer's disease who become confused and wander off, he said.

The technology can also help nab drug offenders, such as anyone using heat
lamps to grow marijuana. In 1996, a state police thermal imager helped
uncover a marijuana operation at a local business, L&M Home Improvement.

Metzler applied for the equipment via the Internet in January, and the
department just learned that it will receive one device. The Counter Drug
Office is paying for the training of one officer in August. Metzler said he
wants all nighttime supervisors to be able to use it, so the city may pay to
train others.

Communities across the country have been selected to receive free technology
and training, and thermal imagers are the most popular item. So far, 472
technology systems such as imagers have been donated.

The Seymour Fire Department has two thermal imagers, which firefighters use
to see fire and victims in smoke-filled buildings. While Metzler didn't know
the cost of the department's new imager, one of the fire department's units
costs about $18,000.

The fire department got their units with the help of grant money through the
Katharine Matthies Foundation.

According to Metzler, there have been several times in the past when a
thermal imager would have come in handy. A burglar ran into the woods after
a Maple Street house robbery in February 1998, for example.

Fire Marshal Michael Driscoll said the police department has asked fire
officials to use their imagers - once to try to find a missing victim of a
motor vehicle accident. It will be beneficial for both police and fire crews
to have their own equipment, he said.

"We don't want to take our units out of service - we want them available to
us at all times," said Driscoll. "The technology has been very valuable.
We've used it to see in buildings where you can't see the hand in front of
your face."

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