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North Fulton SWAT pitches armored vehicle, robotic equipment

Alpharetta Police chief says devices would improve public safety



ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Three North Fulton cities will consider sharing costs to provide local SWAT team members with an armored vehicle and small robotic devices for use in lethal situations.

The proposal, introduced at an Oct. 2 workshop before the Alpharetta City Council, came one day after a gunman opened fire on concert attendees along the Las Vegas Strip, killing 58 and wounding hundreds of others.

The presentation had been placed on the council agenda the prior week, but elected officials referenced the Las Vegas incident as a timely reminder of what law enforcement agencies are faced with in today’s society.

Alpharetta Public Safety Director John Robison told council members that the new equipment would increase safety for police and citizens.

“The horrific events that happened last night in Las Vegas are a reminder to us all the evil that we deal with in the world,” Robison said. “We’ve actually been talking about this for months and months.”

Sometimes, law enforcement is criticized for “our toys,” Robison said. But an armored vehicle and miniature robots will help protect police not only in situations where they come under fire but collect information about potential threats without risking lives.

The North Fulton SWAT Team, commanded by Alpharetta Police Lt. D.L. French, consists of close to 50 officers from Alpharetta, Roswell and Milton.

French said the total cost for the equipment, $376,000, would be shared by each city according to population. Under those terms, Roswell would contribute $180,000, Alpharetta $127,000, and Milton’s share would be $67,000.

Currentlythe North Fulton SWAT Team has no safe way to rescue citizens or officers who are under direct gunfire, French said. The team also has no safe way to approach buildings where crimes are unfolding.

The armored rescue vehicle alone has a price tag of $312,000. Its annual maintenance cost is about $500, with insurance costs estimated at $900 per year.

The agencies are also considering two small robotic devices for the SWAT Team.

The Avatar III robot is a large tracked robot that would give police the ability to carry on a conversation with a suspect without having to make entry. The purchase price is $48,036. Its expected annual operations and maintenance cost is $100.

The Recon Scout XL robot is a small micro-robot that can traverse varied terrain and can be thrown into doorways or windows from a safe distance to provide audio and video of the environment.

Its cost is $16,123, with estimated annual maintenance costs of $100.

French said the department is recommending Alpharetta’s share of the cost for the equipment be funded through drug seizure funds.

Alpharetta city leaders are expected to consider the purchase at a meeting in the coming weeks. Officials in Roswell and Milton are expected to hear the proposal for the first time later this month.

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