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Public Safety, police to renovate trailer for use as command station

The trailer next to the fence in Lot 23 has been parked there for more than a month without a permit. But there is no ticket attached to the window.

And "it's not there to take up your parking spaces," Public Safety Crime Prevention Specialist Barry Weiser ensured.

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The trailer has a big future. Weiser said he hopes that renovations will enable the trailer to function as a "remote command center" for University Public Safety and Princeton Township and Princeton Borough police departments by next year.

The camper will be stripped down and transformed into a communications center. It will feature an array of maps, police radios, and cellular telephones, as well as a conference table. Decals and patches signifying the joint ownership and use of the camper will serve as the finishing touches, Weiser said.

"We're doing a lot of the work ourselves to keep the costs down," Borough Police Chief Tom Michaud said.

He estimates the budget for renovations to be $3,000, just more than a third of the original cost of $8,000, an expense which the three agencies have split equally.

It is a little expensive for one department to purchase alone because "it's not something any agency is going to be using day in and day out," Township Police Chief Anthony Gaylord said.

The $8,000 price tag, however, seems quite reasonable when compared to the cost of some custom made and furnished mobile stations, which run as high as $50,000, Michaud said.

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The trailer purchase has been on the back burner for a few years, and has only become a priority because "the town is getting busier and busier and more things have been happening," Michaud said.

"There have been a couple incidents in which, if we had a command post, we could have used it," Weiser said. But there was no specific incident which triggered the need for the remote command center, Weiser added.

Gaylord agreed, dismissing November's armed robbery at Sovereign Bank on Nassau Street as an impetus for the purchase.

Weiser considered it a proactive investment in campus safety, explaining that a multi-agency command post could help, "preventing crime from spilling over into the University."

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"We have had a number of search operations which have extended over a number of days. We've had to work out of different types of vehicles which didn't have the room or the facilities to do what needed to get done," Gaylord said. "Working out of a rescue truck can get a little cramped," he added.

Searches over rural and wooded areas and arson investigations sometimes take a prolonged period of time to complete, Michaud said. The emergency management trailer will provide the teams with a comfortable place to compare notes and shelter from inclement weather.

The three agencies plan to use the trailer for more than searches and disasters, Gaylord said, citing Communiversity Day as one potential use for the remote command center. In addition, the University could use it for Commencement or Reunions, Weiser suggested.

Michaud did not predict any conflict of interests between the three agencies. "Things don't arise that often. If they do, it's likely that we'll be sharing the duties because the University is part of the Township and the Borough."