Mayor Defends Putting GPS Units in Police Cars
Lehigh County is in the process of installing GPS systems in police cars throughout the county but only the county and the officers in the cars are able to see it in real time.
Macungie Mayor Rick Hoffman again asked Borough Council at its April 2 meeting to fund the GPS system he wants to install in all borough police cars, and again council’s vote on the idea was postponed.
This time the mayor brought to the table estimates for three companies’ versions. The most economical would cost Macungie taxpayers just under $2,000 a year for years two and three of a three-year GPS service contract.
Borough business owner Tim Romig reminded the mayor that these are the same residents whose annual property taxes were just raised then raised again when the 2012 budget was specially reopened in January.
Months ago, when the mayor introduced the GPS plan, he said that the entire plan would be paid for by donations and that it would cost the taxpayers nothing. What was not covered by donations, Hoffman said, would be covered by his own personal funds. Later, he said he misspoke. He has the donations to cover the first year, but needs council to commit taxpayers to the rest.
“How many thousands of dollars are you asking taxpayers to pay…for your spy toy,” Romig asked.
In the meantime, Lehigh County has introduced a GPS system that is in the process of being installed in police cars throughout the county. The mayor’s and the county’s systems are similar: both will indicate the real-time position of police vehicles. Both will record data on car locations and the length of time a car spends in a location.
The only difference is that the county system is monitored by county personnel and by the officers in the cars.
Hoffman wants to be able to monitor Macungie police officers from his home computer.
“It’s a managerial tool,” Hoffman said several times, adding that he did not want to be involved with the governmental lag time and red tape that would accompany asking the county to provide the information.
“Laurie Bailey, Lehigh County 911 director, told me to buy a commercial system,” Hoffman told council.
Two more borough residents approached the podium to ask the mayor why his system was warranted.
Pat Stasko started off calmly, but when the mayor kept repeating that the GPS is a “managerial tool,” the discussion began to heat up.
“Don’t you get it,” Stasko said, “Nobody trusts you.”
Marvin Moyer was even more blunt.
Getting no satisfaction when he asked the mayor why he really wanted the new system, Moyer added, “You want to know where the cruiser cars are so the Pub can send the drunks home.”
One by one council members began asking questions about the mayor’s motives, the comparisons between his selected systems and the cost to taxpayers.
Eventually, the mayor said he would get Bailey’s comments in writing, and the topic was tabled for the evening.