May 95

Level of Govt: Local

Function: Law Enforcement

Problem/Situation: The Brevard County, Fla., Sheriff's Office is responsible for a large area with few facilities in between jurisdictions.

Solution: A laptop-based communications system that allows for data exchange between officers.

Jurisdiction: Brevard County, Fla.

Vendors: Unisys

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla - Today, the Brevard County Sheriff's Office network and law enforcement information system are among the most innovative in Florida and are attracting the attention of officials from across the state. Located east of Orlando, Fla., and stretching along the Atlantic coast, Brevard County is a geographic nightmare for its sheriff's office. The Brevard County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) is responsible for enforcing the law in all county areas that do not fall under the authority of municipal law enforcement agencies. Consequently, its jurisdiction is as large as the county itself, some 80 miles long and 40 miles wide.

In addition to its headquarters in Titusville, BCSO operates precincts in the central and southern parts of the county and runs the county's detention center in Sharpes, a small town 15 miles south of Titusville. With such a large jurisdiction and long distances between facilities, BCSO considers electronic communications and data exchange critical to maintaining public safety.


In 1989, BCSO initiated a plan to develop a laptop-based computer network that would allow its 240 agents and deputies to file reports from the field. At the time, deputies were spending nearly half of their time writing reports, and BCSO required nearly two weeks to process them. Agents traveled to headquarters to thumb through paper-based files to conduct their investigations. BCSO believed the new laptop network would save time, reduce costs and vastly improve its ability to enforce the law.

The BCSO was correct. With an initial deployment of 20 laptops and remote terminals in 1989, the terminal network was off and running, and demand for the system quickly grew. But problems soon arose: the undersized mainframe struggled to keep up with the increased volume, and the existing data communications network proved to be unreliable.

The terminal network used low-speed leased telephone lines to connect copper wire-based local and remote terminal installations at administration headquarters and other BCSO facilities. This configuration was unreliable, because the communications network was dependent on the local phone company for service. The configuration also was susceptible to the powerful effects of lightning storms, which are common in central Florida and can easily knock out copper-wire networks.

Ray Dils BCSO's MIS Manager

"It became evident that our current system couldn't handle the workload," said Ray Dils, BCSO MIS Manager. "The multiplexers and leased lines were operating at full capacity, and we were constantly being hit by lightning. Instead of only upgrading the mainframe, we decided to go with a whole new setup."

Unisys Network Enable, a Unisys organization that specializes in the design, implementation, and support of advanced integrated open-systems networks, provided BCSO with a turnkey, open systems solution. Unisys engineers conferred with Dils, reviewed the requirements, and designed and implemented a solution that met BCSO's current and anticipated network needs.

The solution included a high-speed radio area network (RAN) that supported TCP/IP protocol and connected BCSO's four sites. For its headquarters and detention center, BCSO standardized on Ethernet as a transport over a fiber optic-cabling topology. These networks are extremely flexible and easily adapted to changing end user requirements. A Unisys UNIX-based client/server system provided the processing power and ensured interoperability with existing and future systems.

"I didn't have the expertise to install the fiber-optic lines and radio area network. It was all new to me," said Dils. "Unisys took responsibility for it all: project coordination, hardware and material procurement, system installation, testing, documentation, and

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