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Members of the Marana Police Department will have a clear line of communications with other first responders from throughout Pima County after joining PCWIN.

The Marana Police Department is now fully  part of the Pima County Wireless Integrated Network, joining 55 other local agencies. 

PCWIN is a communications system allowing public safety and public service agencies to contact each other by radio “in real time on a single system, regardless of their jurisdiction boundaries.”

“Originally, each agency had their own radio system.” said Rick Brown, PCWIN executive director. “That made it very difficult for them all to get in touch.”

Created partially in response to the September 11 Attacks, PCWIN aims at unifying the communications of emergency responders. Previously, if a Marana police officer wanted to contact another agency, they needed to call their dispatch, who would then contact that agency. For instance: If MPD chased a suspect into an unincorporated section of the county outside of their jurisdiction, necessitating collaboration with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department (a situation that actually happened in 2016).

According to Sgt. Chriswell Scott, MPD Public Information Officer, the department was influenced into joining PCWIN after an armed robbery in July 2016 which took officers on a high-speed chase through town limits and into Tucson. 

“We work very closely with the Pima County Sheriff and Oro Valley Police, communication happens regularly.” Scott said. “That bank robbery was kind of the catalyst for us joining on.” 

Marana PD began the process of integration into PCWIN in May 2017. This came seven years after the PCWIN project manager announced the communications project would continue on without Marana, due to the Marana Town Council’s initial decline to participate with the system. 

The department first added 12 radios enabled to communicate over PCWIN, but now has over 200 radios and six dispatch consoles. Every officer now has a radio connected to the rest of Pima County, costing the town $33 per radio per month. 

“Marana’s been a little forward-thinking on this,” Scott said. “Most of the radios were able to be reprogrammed, so we didn’t have to buy new ones for every officer.” 

Marana upgraded its current communications system in 2012. Now, at the end of its shelf life, it would cost the town nearly $1.5 million for a new communications system that would be still inoperable with PCWIN. That system would also have $250,000 in annual maintenance costs. Joining PCWIN only costs Marana $575,000 with a yearly maintenance cost of $80,000 to $100,000. 

“From a public safety standpoint, this is really kind of a no brainer for us,” Marana Chief of Police Terry Rozema said at a council meeting.

With MPD joining, the only other department not on PCWIN is the Tohono O’odham Nation police. According to Brown, there have been discussions for many years in hopes of getting Tohono O’odham on-board. Other Native American departments have already joined the system.

PCWIN, a bond-funded project, was originally approved by Pima County voters during the May 2004 Special Bond Election. The voters approved a $60 million bond to construct the emergency communications network.

Read this story and more online at tucsonlocalmedia.com.

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