By far, one of the most important contributors to the efficiency of modern-day law enforcement is unquestionably communications. That covers just about every facet of today’s operations from the Chief’s office intercom through Dispatch, SWAT raids, routine patrol, surveillance, drug buys, records storage and retrieval, coordination from level to level and division to division, and right on down to “Hey! Let’s grab a quick lunch while the air’s slow!”

For field communications, we’ve thankfully come a long way from that dark night of July 22, 1934, during the famous federal stakeout at the Biograph Theater in Chicago, Agent Melvin Purvis stationed himself out front, waiting to identify John Dillinger as he exited. The signal, in those days prior to the widespread use of radios by cops, was for Purvis to light a cigar on sighting Dillinger, after which the surrounding agents would close in. The story goes that Purvis went through about half a box of matches before he found one that lit, and the delay in signaling “That’s him!” nearly lost them America’s most wanted gangster of his day.

Nowadays, most of the attention goes to the high-dollar com systems, but for certain smaller operations involving a limited area and relatively few participants, TriSquare Electronics has developed an interesting system in their Xtreme Radio Service handhelds.

trisquare.gifTwo Models Available
Offered in two models, the TSX100 and TSX300, these little walkies are about the size of a large cell phone, and utilize the newly developed eXRS system to “channel hop” in the 900MHz frequency range. TriSquare, a longtime maker of other well-known brands, noted the crowding and lack of privacy on the standard consumer FRS and GMRS bands, and produced the eXRS technology to eliminate those, primarily for the public market. But, there are several features, including cost, which can appeal to certain aspects of police work.

First up, the TSX300 (the recommended full-featured model) has the ability to use 10 billion channels. The user selects a “channel” number on the display to coordinate with other units, and all walkies in range selecting the same display channel number will automatically synchronize with each other while each one is constantly hopping from channel to channel to avoid others using or hearing transmissions. The channel number selected is a coordination point only and has no direct connection to any single specific frequency. This channel hopping provides a huge number of alternative channels, along with privacy and security from scanners. Channels are programmable and users can create “nets” of individual groups. “Talkgroups” can be set on one channel for group participation, and a “private” channel can be set up for secure traffic between two units only. It also includes a caller ID feature, unique to handhelds of this type. The Nextel system is similar, but goes through a call center, the XRS is direct unit to unit.
Another feature is text messaging up to 80 characters, again from either one unit to a net or between two units. Individual radios can be cloned via transmissions to others once configured, to create a user-customized network.

Using one of two Softkeys to work through the menu, each radio displays functions on a brightly lit LCD screen. Volume control, Contacts List (name and channel), call waiting (an override in conjunction with private channel), stored incoming text, six stored user-determined Ready Note outgoing text messages, NOAA weather channel reception, three voice-activated volume levels (VOX) for hands-free use, five incoming “ring tone” choices, choice of ring tone, vibrate, or both, audible “Roger” beep at the end of each transmission (on or off), a timeout setting (to limit continuous transmissions), and key beep (on or off) are all user configured through the menu, screen, and backlit keypad.

Not intended for long distance use, these radios are powered by three AA batteries and range is limited with a one-watt output. TriSquare also sells an accessory pack to back them up that contains a dual desktop AC charger, two NiMH rechargeable battery packs, and two headsets with boom mikes (PTT mode or VOX). Run time with AA alkalines is around 5 hours, 8 with the rechargeable pack (obviously depending on transmission use).

trisquare2.gifWhile law enforcement isn’t the primary market for these little walkies, there are several useful applications that could be devised with a little creative thought, such as close stationary stakeouts and drug buys where car-to car-traffic wouldn’t clutter up a main radio net, extended foot surveillances where a larger handheld would be too obvious and a cell phone too slow and impractical, crime scene and traffic accident coordination, and even intra-building use to stay in communication with detectives and division heads that tend to wander during the day. For in-house use, they offer advantages far beyond the conventional pager, without the cost of a cell phone service.

The TSX300 can be programmed for less obvious operation by removing the various beeps, plugging in the headset, and going VOX. Stepping up a notch, the text messaging in itself or with stored Ready Note messages can be used to signal directions to any other units in the net on any given operation in total silence, without risking exposing your position or being overheard by third parties. Melvin Purvis would cheerfully have traded a truckload of matches for a pair of these.

At 6.5 ounces in weight and 6 inches in height with removable swiveling belt clip, these little walkies offer a number of handy features that take them far beyond the older handhelds within their class and price range. Range varies depending on surroundings, but generally runs about a mile in the city, and TriSquare says they’ve tested it inside a 27-story building with good results. Secure channels with no outside interference and easily programmable configuring are all very reasonably priced at a suggested retail of $44.99 per individual unit, $99.99 per two-unit value pack, and $29.99 for the accessory kit.

TriSquare Electronics Corporation at 1420 NW Vivion Road, Suite 109, Dept GW/LE Kansas City, Missouri 64118; 816-505-3575; can give you more info and a list of places to buy if you can’t find these locally.

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