Seized money yields Cary police gear

akenney@newsobserver.comOctober 7, 2013 

Officer Casey Snyder aims a laser-based speed-tracking gun at traffic on Academy Street near the Cary Arts Center. The equipment was purchased with federal drug forfeiture money seized during criminal investigations and prosecutions.

ANDREW KENNEY — akenney@newsobserver.com

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— The yearly haul of money seized in criminal investigations has provided the Cary Police Department with its share of high-tech upgrades and new equipment, including a camera-equipped robot.

This year’s “forfeiture” haul from the federal government put about $131,000 in the town’s coffers. The deposit, approved last month by the Cary Town Council, has to be used for law-enforcement purposes.

The town earns a portion of money seized when it participates in certain criminal convictions where the government seizes goods or money.

Most of the dozen or so eligible cases in fiscal year 2013 were related to drugs, according to police staff. The “forfeitures,” which are limited in North Carolina law to cases that end in conviction, provide an unreliable windfall, and sometimes are used to explore new gear and technologies.

“We definitely do not try to do anything frivolous. We look at our internal needs,” said Capt. Tracy Jernigan.

Here’s a rundown of this year’s proposed purchases:

•  Surveillance: The town will upgrade some of its “more outdated camera and surveillance equipment,” including audio recording devices, Jernigan said, declining to give more detail. The project will total about $42,500.

Cary also will buy a new computer system for its digital forensics team, which investigates computer-based crimes. The surveillance and computer systems will cost a combined $56,000.

•  K-9 gear: The town’s K-9 unit will receive three patrol rifles and two hand-held night-vision devices.

“Otherwise, right now all they have is a flashlight,” Jernigan said.

The K-9 purchases total $20,000.

•  Robotic camera: The town’s Emergency Response Team, a SWAT-like unit, will get the town’s first robot-mounted camera, at a cost of about $18,000.

In a standoff, for example, “instead of sending an officer up to, say, the front, you could send this device,” Jernigan said.

•  Simulated ammo: For about $21,000, the ERT will receive Simunitions, a “simulated ammunition” training system that is new to the town. It’s like “paintball on steroids,” Jernigan said.

Kenney: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @KenneyNC

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