L.A. uses wireless surveillance
Los Angeles recently installed a municipal wireless network and video surveillance system in Jordan Downs, a 700-unit public housing apartment complex that is home to the Grape Street Watts Crips, one of the most notorious criminal gangs in the city.
“This area is an identified area for the Grapes Street Watts Crips, a very violent gang known for drug activity, gang-on-gang crimes and … crimes against people, such as battery and homicides,” said Dan Gomez, the officer in charge of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) tactical technology unit that led the project.
Gomez said the LAPD approached Motorola to develop a video surveillance system that would remotely monitor the area and transmit data to a centralized location, as well as to police officers’ patrol cars. To support the effort, the department received $800,000 in funding from a variety of sources, including the Department of Justice, the city’s Housing Authority and social services department, and in-kind donations. However, the amount was not enough to cover the costs associated with the hardware and consultancy services needed to install the system.
Motorola donated services and equipment to cover the more than $1.2 million funding gap, Gomez said. “Motorola thought that this was a worthwhile project and a good test for its mesh network,” he said.
Motorola installed a MotoMesh multi-radio broadband wireless network, which communicates on 4.9 GHz spectrum licensed to public safety. The system included the network, as well as multiple intelligent access points and 10 remotely controlled IP, pan-tilt and zoom, ruggedized cameras mounted on telephone polls, said Mike Fabbri, Motorola’s director of data solutions and operations. Captured data and video are transmitted over the network to the LAPD Southeast Community Police Station, where officers can view feeds concurrently.
Motorola’s Canopy wireless broadband platform is used for backhaul, and a mobile video-sharing client-server software package aids in-vehicle, real-time data feeds.
Gomez said the system acts as a force multiplier because it replaces the number of officers needed to patrol the area, so they can be redeployed to other high-crime areas. In addition, two Southeast division officers can monitor the Jordan Downs cameras — virtually patrolling the entire area from a single point.
“I would be putting four to six cars in the area to do what two officers are doing remotely via the camera system,” he said.
In addition, officers can be provided with true situational awareness. They know the status in the area or at a crime scene before they arrive.
“One of the officers’ toughest jobs when they arrive on the scene is the split-second decision, and the ultimate is a life-and-death decision,” Gomez said. “By having the video feed come to the car as they are responding, the officers can get a situational awareness and start their decision-making process before they arrive.”
Since the camera installation, crimes in the area have dropped 30%, something Gomez said is the result of several efforts, including recruiting additional officers, increasing lighting in the area at night and working closely with community leaders.
“It’s really a combination of all those things that affect crime,” he said. “The cameras and technology are one component of that.”
A video-surveillance system also builds trust between the police and the community, because it captures both criminal and police behavior.
“If [officers] engage in conduct that’s not appropriate, we are going to catch that and deal with that appropriately,” Gomez said.
Community members also have access to the mesh network, utilizing MotoMesh’s unlicensed radios operating in the 2.4 GHz band. According to Fabbri, the plan is to provide residents and public schools in the area with Wi-Fi access.
“This is a thriving community — all we are doing is providing a pipeline for them,” Gomez said. “It’s a community that wants help, and this is a way to be able to bridge that digital divide.”