SKOWHEGAN — When Somerset County sheriff’s Cpl. Eugene Cole was shot to death and his marked patrol truck was stolen in April 2018, local authorities had no way of finding the missing vehicle.

The pickup truck later was located on rural Martin Stream Road in Norridgewock, but it took authorities about four hours to find it.

That all is about to change, as Somerset County commissioners on Wednesday voted unanimously to install tracking devices in all 27 sheriff’s office cars, trucks and transport vans.

The Verizon Connect devices, essentially a GPS, or Global Positioning System, send out cellular signals from the installed hardware to let police and dispatchers know exactly where every vehicle is at any given time, Sheriff Dale Lancaster said.

“In a rural setting, it’s very important that we are able to locate our deputies,” Lancaster said. “It emits a cellular signal that is more enhanced than your phone. In our internal review of the (Cole) situation, a deficiency that was of concern was the fact that Cpl. Cole’s truck was stolen after his murder and it took us several hours to locate that vehicle.

“What I wanted to do was find a device that would not put the county in that situation again.”

Each device is about two-thirds the size of an iPhone.

The hardware from Verizon is provided at no cost to the county as part of a Verizon promotion the sheriff’s office was able to take advantage of. There is a one-time cost of $540 to activate the system, according to Lancaster. The company also charges $17 a month per vehicle for the cellular service.

Lancaster said the installed devices will be secure and free from tampering or deactivation. He would not say, for security reasons, where in the vehicle the device would be mounted.

“It’s a transmitter that will give dispatch, IT and administration here the ability to see where the vehicle is,” he said. “Your cellphone has a signal strength that it puts out; this is an enhanced signal and it feeds right to the dispatch. It covers the county.”

Lancaster said other police agencies use similar devices.

Lt. Mark Brooks, commander of Maine State Police Troop C Barracks in Skowhegan, said all troopers’ vehicles are equipped with laptop computers and dispatch can locate a cruiser through a Spillman mapping program.

“This is an application located inside the trooper’s lap top,” Brooks said. “A committee is currently exploring asset tracking for all of our assets to include MSP cruisers.”

In other New Year business, incumbent Newell Graf Jr. was re-elected commission chairman, and incumbent Lloyd Trafton as commission vice-chairman.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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