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Convert traffic surveillance cameras to help LAPD, lawmaker says

April 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Los Angeles is filled with surveillance cameras. Now, after the Boston Marathon bombings, a local lawmaker wants to see if some of these cameras can be converted to help the Los Angeles Police Department solve crimes.

There are 460 cameras that are already activated by the city's Department of Transportation to monitor traffic.

"We've already spent the money putting the infrastructure in place. It makes sense to utilize that as a force multiplier," said City Councilman Mitchell Englander.

Englander is also an LAPD reservist. He has introduced a motion in the council to explore possible software enhancements that might make the traffic cameras more useful to law enforcement. Currently DOT says its system is designed to find only traffic troubles, such as an accident or road construction.

Operators can pan and tilt the cameras, but the pictures are never recorded.

"They can't see what happened yesterday or this morning," said Jonathan Hui with the DOT.

Englander said what is needed would be similar to what LAPD already has in place in Mission Hills -- a feature that could capture close-ups of faces or cars and record them. A split feed would send the images to LAPD.

"We can add other technological enhancements, such as software with license plate recognition software," said Englander. "We also add recording capabilities so we can go back in time and search particular dates where we have known the suspect might have been or an incident might have occurred."

LAPD and other agencies will be conducting a feasibility study to see if the changes can be made, and if so, what would they cost. Englander's vision is an upgrade in public safety.

"The world has changed. We need to embrace technology to help us solve crimes quicker. What happened in Boston just solidified it," he said.

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