Los Angeles City Council looks to expand LAPD surveillance program

City News Service
Sunday, April 21, 2024
LA looks to expand LAPD surveillance program
The council instructed LAPD to report back on their plans to expand their surveillance program and about the creation of real-time crime centers.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion seeking to expand a proposed surveillance program that would give the Los Angeles Police Department real-time access to private and business' security cameras.

The council on Friday voted 12-1 in favor of the motion, which instructed LAPD to report back on their plans to expand their surveillance program and about the creation of real-time crime centers from an initial three divisions to 21. Additionally, other departments related to this matter are expected to report back on efforts to integrate feeds from the city's security cameras into these real-time crime centers.

While Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez was the lone "no" vote. Her colleagues Nithya Raman and Monica Rodriguez were absent during the vote.

Currently, more than 300 law enforcement agencies across the country, including New York City and Detroit, utilize what are known as real-time crime centers, which use security cameras to prevent and interrupt crime as it happens.

Law enforcement agencies have created facilities with access to cameras such as Automated License Plate Readers, security cameras at private businesses and residences, as well as existing Department of Transportation cameras installed at large intersections -- all in one location. Individuals and business owners would be required to opt into the program in order to give the LAPD permission to access their live footage.

LAPD officials expect to fund the program using monies from the state to address the organized retail theft task force. The city recently accepted more than $15,000 in a state grant for the program and the purchase of more cameras, among other things.

In Beverly Hills, the police department launched its real-time watch center in 2022. Automated license plate readers helped authorities capture an individual suspected of murdering three unhoused individuals and a Los Angeles County government employee in December 2023.

In December 2023, LAPD officials shared the goal of launching real-time crime centers in each of LAPD's 21 divisions with an initial rollout, or pilot program, starting with the Hollywood, Wilshire and Van Nuys divisions.

While the LAPD is expected to pilot the real-time crime centers at those three divisions, no official start date has been released. A representative for the LAPD told City News Service that "No information is available for dissemination at this time."

Council members Traci Park and John Lee, who introduced the motion passed Friday, want to prepare the city to expand the pilot program.

According to their motion, the city saw an increase in property and retail theft in 2023, including 123 flash mob robberies. In Park's 11th District, encompassing the coastal neighborhoods of L.A., the councilwoman cited 50 car burglaries that took place at the start of 2023.

The council members also believe that with LAPD's sworn officers down 9,000, these crime centers will aid the department in responding quickly and efficiently to crime.

Critics of the LAPD previously said the program will violate privacy and is a form of inappropriate surveillance.

When the LAPD announced plans on the real-time crime centers, Matyos Kidane of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition -- a community group working to abolish police surveillance -- said that "All these things haven't solved retail crime ... they were never meant to. It's just to fear-monger. It's just to increase these surveillance cameras."