Commissioners approve vehicle monitoring and tracking system for Sheriff Department fleet

by Emily Waldrep

Tyler County Commissioners met Friday, July 18 at 8:30 a.m. and voted to approve a new municipal Synsurance agreement with the Tyler County Sheriff's Office for patrol and non-patrol cars.

Earlier in the month, Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford was able to meet with Richard Downing, of Synovia Solutions, which is a communication and tracking company that deals with in-car computers and access.

"This program just caught my attention so much with the liability issues and the safety aspect," Weatherford said. "This is something I couldn't walk away from and I ask you to consider to approve this for my department because I think it is something that will benefit the county as a whole and there is no additional money needed whatsoever, and the numbers will remain well within our telephone budget."

Downing gave a short presentation on his product and on Synovia Solutions, which provides several important services to vehicle fleets.

"We have been in business for 13 years and we provide real time GPS with tracking among other things," Downing said. "We are in 200-plus cities in North America and we have 25 of the top 100 fleets in North America, such as Houston ISD. We also have over 72,000 GPS units deployed throughout North America."

According to Downing, Synovia makes it easy for clients to use and employ a real time GPS system. Synovia provides all of the hardware, software, free ongoing training and technical support to those who use the system.

"We ping patrol cars every 30 seconds, but with the unit we are going to provide to the sheriffs department, when the lights and sirens are on in a car that ping will increase to five seconds so the system is always recording everything that is going on," Downing said. "If something happened and there was a wreck, you have proof of when the cars lights and sirens were activated and a time line of events."

The system also gives remote access to those who need to look at the system from home or in a patrol cars, mileage reports, live and historical weather, reporting help, engine diagnostics such as odometer, engine hours, average MPG, and fault codes, live maps, real time fleet tracking and countless other benefits.

"Everything is recorded," Downing said. "The sheriff can also put a monitor in the communications department so that they can see where all the patrol cars are at all times."

The Sheriff can also set up a "Geo Fence" within the system that will contain patrol cars to a certain area, and if the car leaves that area or goes over a certain speed within that area, the Sheriff will receive an alert.

"There are many things that caught my eye about this system," Weatherford said. "I have got a great group of employees that I have entrusted to drive these Tahoes and patrol cars and they have firearms on their side. In this day and time I want to make sure there is accountability and that big brother is watching. I have entrusted not only my livelihood but I've entrusted them with your safety, and with doing that, I want to make sure they are able to answer to me, but also that I'm able to answer to the public. It gives a check and balance for me."

The sheriff also said he is glad that the department will be able to employ the Geo Fence to help officers remain accountable to the area that they are working.

"We can pull up the shift that's working on GPS or we can pull up the shifts that are off," Weatherford said. "We will know exactly where cars are at all times and there will be accountability. The engine diagnostics will also help us out a lot."

The commissioner's court unanimously approved the new communications and GPS system through Synovia for the Tyler County Sheriff's Department and the system will be put into place this year.

"I think it's a great thing," said Commissioner Walston. "As far as the maintenance, accountability, and all aspects of the program."

The court also approved Stewart Cobb at 1st National Bank Leasing as the lease provider of patrol cars.