With assistance from the federal government, the Goshen Police Department now has a new tool in fighting crime.
Through a grant from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the department acquired a Bullard Tacsight Thermal Imager, a non-invasive camera that detects heat emitted from objects, according to the Law Enforcement Thermographers Association’s Web site.
With the grant, the department not only received the piece of equipment at no cost, but Sgt. Mike Golec received training for its use, too. Valued at nearly $19,000, the imager is equipped with a handle that transmits an image to a hand held display screen, the display screen itself and a device to record the images.
“The thermal imager is not a common piece of equipment because of its cost,” Golec said. “The main goal of the grant, though, is to provide this type of equipment to smaller departments with smaller budgets.”
According to Golec, since the imager can detect heat emitted by an object, no light is needed. For several years, the department has been using a night vision device, which needs at least a minute amount of light to work effectively, he said.
Despite its limitations — it does not work well through reflective substances like water and glass — the thermal imager distinguishes objects quickly in obstructed areas like
woods of cornfields, Golec said.
“The imager saves time in fugitive and evidence searches,” he said. “It can be operated with minimal manpower, too, eliminating the need to call officers from surrounding departments away from their duties.”
Although the department has received equipment through participation in state programs, Golec said the imager is the first piece of equipment it has received from the federal government in his five years of service.
“One reason for the grant is to help smaller communities prevent terrorist activity,” Golec said. “Even though an attack seems unlikely, there is always a possibility. What we’re doing as a department is building an infrastructure to combat those possible events.”
In addition to evidence and fugitive searches, the imager can be used to reconstruct crash scenes for investigations, according to Golec. When the anti-lock braking system (ABS) is used, the tires conduct heat on the pavement, leaving tracks that last approximately 15 minutes, he said.
The imager can also pick up heat waves through items like walls. Although it can not actually see through the material, the imager detects the heat when something is pressed against it, Golec said, relating a story of a fugitive who was found while hiding in the attic of a church when the imager detected his body heat through the ceiling. It can even be used from the air and to detect indoor marijuana use, he said.
Considering the quick turnover in technology, Golec said that the thermal imager should last longer than most equipment since it is so sophisticated, anticipating no problem in the unit being utilized for ten plus years.
“We’ll definitely be able to investigate crimes and crashes much more efficiently and effectively, keeping the residents safer,” Golec said.
Kevin Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org