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Lancaster launches aerial surveillance system to fight crime

August 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The city of Lancaster revealed on Thursday its newest crime fighting tool that provides a bird's eye view of the city.

The new surveillance system is a specially equipped plane that will give Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies an aerial vantage point.

This new tool will be useful for the city, especially because the town is so large and spread out and law enforcement officials just can't be everywhere at once.

The technology, called the Law Enforcement Aerial Platform System (LEAPS), will be attached to the underbelly of a single-engine Cessna. LEAPS is basically a radar system, and it will provide deputies with a sprawling view of criminal activity and provide information they just cannot get from the ground.

Also, LEAPS will be invaluable when it comes to natural disasters like fires or earthquakes, where an aerial view can assess damage and help with rescues.

The tool has similar capabilities as drones, which are used by the military to scan warzones and transmit live video from the battle field. However, the difference is that drones are remote controlled, whereas the LEAPS technology will be attached to a plane that will have a Los Angeles County deputy inside.

Though the LEAPS camera isn't as strong as the ones on military drones, it can still zoom in on a person walking on the street from more than three miles away even in the dark.

Some residents and civil rights groups have expressed privacy concerns, but officials assure that LEAPS will not be used to spy on neighborhoods.

"The people saying that have an imagination of what they think it is. And you know, they watch '24 Hour' and they think it's like that. That's not what this is. This is a system that has been cut down do meet the needs of law enforcement and at the same time safeguard privacy and I think we've successfully done that," said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris.

The current plan is to have LEAPS up in the air for 10 hours a day at the cost of $300 per hour, which adds up to about $90,000 per month or more than $1 million per year. Though the city is cash-strapped, city officials say this technology is a necessity and they hope it lowers the city's crime rate, which has spiked recently.


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