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New tool will help local police

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GREENFIELD — The Greenfield Police Department received approval Tuesday to purchase equipment that will aid officers as they investigate accident scenes and potentially cut down on road closure time after a crash.

The $4,200 piece of equipment, called a “total station,” is a surveying tool that will help investigators take measurements while reconstructing what led to an accident, Maj. Derek Towle told the Greenfield Board of Works and Public Safety, which unanimously approved the purchase.

“This equipment’s not new technology,” said Towle, who leads the county’s fatal accident crash team, which conducts investigations on crashes causing serious injury or death. “Surveyors have been using this for years. Now, it has become more and more useful.”

Taking measurements at a scene helps investigators determine things such as the speed a vehicle was traveling at the time of impact, as well as other details. The police department currently uses a laser to make those calculations.

While the laser is effective, it is not efficient, Towle said. It takes three people to operate – one holding the laser, one holding the receiver, and one writing down the data while the operators have their hands full.

The total station has the capability to have data entered directly into the device, eliminating the need for one officer to be on hand taking notes.

“It should reduce our manpower and the time we’re on the scene,” Greenfield Police Chief John Jester said.

That could potentially lead to less time spent rerouting traffic around a crash site, which is inconvenient for drivers and sometimes requires an officer to direct traffic.

“It should reduce the amount of time it takes us to … to get the accident cleaned up that much faster,” Towle said.

The information gathered by the device is uploaded into a computer-based drawing program, which sketches out a picture of the crash for the final report.

Currently, the data points have to be entered manually, a tedious process.

“There can be up to two or three hundred of those points,” Towle said.

The device will also allow officers to more easily measure and record information about elevation changes in the roadway, which affect a driver’s speed.

As it stands now, officers have to measure those changes with a yard stick.

The goal is to have the sheriff’s department purchase a second device so there is always a spare should Towle be unavailable for a crash investigation, Towle said.

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