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Infrared Beacon Evaluation: Applications for Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2008
55 pages
This project evaluated a range of infrared (IR) beacons currently available in the law enforcement marketplace in reference to their applicability, utility as safety devices for law enforcement officers, and as potential tools for operational deployments.
The findings suggest that infrared (IR) beacon technology has substantial application for tracking law enforcement officers involved in foot pursuits, as well as monitoring police canines that operate off-lead. Key findings include: (1) relative effectiveness of all the IR beacons under review; (2) IR beacons utility was substantially increased when coupled with an aerial surveillance unit, such as a helicopter; (3) IR beacons do not have to be seen directly to be located; and (4) the cost considerations for the purchase and implementation of the IR beacons and the night observation devices are well within the budgetary limit of most financially conservative agencies. In addition, while the visibility of IR beacons was increased by motion, a large number were detectable while stationary and on the ground. This indicates new applications available for IR beacons such as assisting in recovering an injured officer or serving as a marker to identify evidence for later recovery. A problem faced by law enforcement agencies is the tracking of their officers once they leave their motor vehicles. Researchers sought to determine whether or not IR beacons could be used as a low-cost, easily implemented solution for tracking police officers engaged in foot pursuits in urban and rural environments. This research supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice was intended to evaluate IR beacon technology. The project tested 13 infrared beacons/strobes produced by 9 different manufacturers. At the heart of the research project was a scaled measure developed to rate the visibility of the particular IR beacon in the study. Figures, references, and appendix
Date Published: June 1, 2008