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Motorola’s wireless video surveillance solution helps the LAPD reduce crime

Written by PSIT Staff

The LAPD sees positive results with wireless video technology. On a daily basis, the 9,400 men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) take to the streets to fulfill their oath to protect and defend the citizens who live, work and play within the 465 square miles of the city of Los Angeles. The success or failure of their mission often depends on equipping them with tools they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.

Located on 10 square miles of the city’s lower east side, Jordan Downs is a 700-unit public housing development in L.A.’s Watts neighborhood. With one of the highest crime rates in the city, Jordan Downs represents tough challenges to L.A.’s men and women in blue. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Police Chief William Bratton recognized those challenges and pledged their support to resolve the problem.

In 2006, Mayor Villaraigosa announced the city’s Jordan Downs public safety initiative, called Safe Passage, promising to increase surveillance in the area and create an environment where residents could feel safe in their own neighborhoods. “We made a promise to the residents of the Jordan Downs community to increase police monitoring services and decrease crime and gang activity,” Mayor Villaraigosa said. “We made a commitment to the parents of Jordan Downs that their children will be able to walk to school safely. Today, we’re keeping those promises.”

Technology Augments Police Force

Fresh on the heels of a dramatic decrease in crime as a result of installing video technology in Los Angeles’ 40-acre MacArthur Park, the LAPD hoped to duplicate that success in Jordan Downs and take the technology a step further. The department’s goal was to create a network around Jordan Downs that would wirelessly deliver real-time video to police from critical locations throughout the area. Mesh technology provides the backbone that delivers high speed data, enabling a new level of situational awareness that allows law enforcement personnel to arrive on the scene fully informed and ready to respond.

“Technology is an important way a small police department with a big job, like LAPD, has any chance of providing public safety,” Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said. “Motorola’s mesh network was the technology we wanted to use, and they stepped up to the plate in a big way.”

Motorola proposed MOTOMESH™ multi-radio wireless broadband network. An easy-to-deploy, scalable and cost-effective solution, MOTOMESH provides Wi-Fi access for the public and gives first responders access to mission critical communications through separate, dedicated and secure access. The network encompasses 10 wireless video surveillance cameras located throughout Jordan Downs that allow officers using laptop computers or handheld devices to pan across surveillance locations and zoom in and out on suspected criminal activity.

A complete end-to-end solution, MOTOMESH leverages Motorola’s patented mesh networking technology to provide visibility in key areas, extending analysis capabilities by recording events for evidentiary and scenario planning use. MOTOMESH boxes hang on light poles or are affixed to buildings, and the network integrates with Motorola Canopy wireless broadband to provide rapid and reliable connections between the distributed access points. “We expected some type of vandalism (to the cameras and equipment),” LAPD Chief Detective Damien LeVesque said. “After five months of operating surveillance cameras in the neighborhood, we had none. We found that by informing citizens of the neighborhood that their actions will be recorded, we actually modified behavior.”

Enabling a Safer, More Effective Police Force

In a law enforcement environment, decisions must be made in a split second. Whether it’s using cameras on street corners or in a car, or using videotape to transfer information to headquarters with real-time video, officers have the power of information. Enabling officers to arrive on the scene with information allows them to respond more effectively to the situation and provides a force multiplier without adding additional feet on the street. Video distributed via high-speed wireless broadband access not only delivers information, but also provides other benefits, including the following:

• Improves the Safety of Officers: Responding to a call armed with critical information provides an additional safety net. With real-time video, officers know what they will be facing once they arrive on the scene.

• Augments Existing Staff: Video enhances the power of the police force without adding head count. “You can cover a greater area with fewer officers and be just as effective,” LAPD Sergeant Dan Gomez said. “Manpower is a big issue for us right now, and having video surveillance helps augment that.”

• Deters Crime: Even with no head count increase in officer staffing, the technology has had a significant impact on crime in Jordan Downs. “People act differently when they’re on camera, and that’s good for both the community and the police,” Gomez noted.

• Enhances Trust and Police Transparency: Video adds trust and transparency, helping to build bridges between the community and the police department. “It increases accountability, improves public relations between the community and the law enforcement agency, and most importantly, it provides credibility to the criminal court system,” Beck stated.

• Provides Community Access to Information: Motorola MOTOMESH technology supports as many as four radio networks in a single access point, providing wireless connectivity in both the 4.9 GHz licensed and 2.4 GHz unlicensed frequencies. This allows the network to support not only public safety, but to also serve homes, schools and hospitals. The mesh solution seamlessly integrated Motorola networks, equipment and applications together with the existing networks of the City of Los Angeles and the Department of Water and Power.

Looking Ahead

The LAPD’s long-term vision is to expand and connect the benefits of the MOTOMESH network to other agencies and emergency service providers. In addition, the LAPD is planning to implement applications through the network that will enable license plate recognition readers, biometrics, and facial and fingerprint recognition.

Photos courtesy of Motorola.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jul/Aug 2010

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