California Police Chief- Fall 2013 CPCA_2019_Spring Magazine- FINAL - Page 31

For the past 15 years, RPD has utilized a city-wide camera surveillance system comprised of high-priced pan-tilt-zoom cameras that can be monitored in real time. Although several crimes have been solved with the aid of the cameras, including a homicide, more than not, investigators are left with an image of a vehicle either entering or leaving the crime scene. Detectives often captured and distributed images of suspects’ vehicles, but usually there was not a clear way to easily identify the suspect’s vehicle, leaving authorities with just an image of the car. RPD researched existing ALPR technology, but the cost proved to be more than most mid-size cities could afford. Research put RPD staff in contact with representatives of Flock Safety (www.flocksafety.com), a start-up company that specializes in manufacturing affordable, easily mobile, and solar powered ALPR cameras. RPD tested their camera camera and determined its specifications provided exactly what was needed to deploy in hot spot areas prone to criminal activity. Since the cameras are web based, investigators have the ability to access the data from any computer connected to the Internet. If needed, they can share access with other law enforcement agencies. As an added benefit, the camera’s cellular capabilities allow for deployment in areas in which traditional surveillance cameras cannot be installed. Utilizing advancements in ALPR technology, RPD had a vision of bolstering its community policing efforts by funding cameras that could be deployed around the community as the need arises. Recently, staff at RPD held a community meeting that was live streamed via Facebook in which officers explained how the police department intended to utilize the cameras to enhance its community policing programs. As community policing officers and crime analysts identify crime trends, they will have staff who are specifically trained in the camera installation deploy the cameras at ingress and egress points in certain areas that are likely to be victimized. For example, housing tracts are typically designed to provide limited access points so if houses within the tract are being burglarized, investigators can have a camera installed at the entrances and exits. These cameras will capture the license plates of cars entering and exiting the area and have the ability to differentiate the license plates belonging to residents from those that do not live in the area. Analysts can quickly distinguish between the cars that belong in the area and those that do not. If needed, the camera’s small size could enable departments to covertly install the cameras. Upon learning of this strategy, various residential areas and business complexes decided to fund cameras for the Redlands Police Department to deploy in their area. The intent is to enable RPD to capture the license plate data utilizing an array of cameras partially funded by the police department and partially funded by private entities. Since the camera captures movement based on infrared trigger, the camera will capture not only vehicles with license plates but also those with paper plates or missing plates, motorcycles, bicycles, and even pedestrians, enabling these cameras to capture movement in locations other than streets This allows for use on trails, bike paths, and other remote locations. Creative law enforcement minds are known to adapt existing technology to address their needs. Within the first month of acquiring the ALPR cameras, Redlands experienced a fatal hit and run traffic collision of a beloved school crossing guard. Armed with a vehicle description obtained from a business’ surveillance camera, investigators have deployed ALPR cameras at strategic locations in hopes of capturing an image of the vehicle along with its license plate. With the past ALPR technology, Departments would have had to make a very large investment in order to adopt this strategy. The willingness to embrace innovative technology has enabled the Redlands Police Department to solve 60 out of the last 61 homicides, resulting in a 98.4% clearance rate since 1996. As community stakeholders continue to expect and demand that their local law enforcement agencies solve all crime problems in their respective communities, effective police departments will continue to utilize technology to provide force multipliers. This ALPR strategy will enable authorities to deploy cameras in neighborhoods and business complexes in order to provide investigators with a credible lead to identify culprits. With unlimited data storage, departments will not have to worry about incurring costly data storage fees. With this affordable ALPR technology, law enforcement agencies now have another effective tool in their tool box to both enhance community policing and solve crime. Travis Martinez has over 24 years of law enforcement experience and is currently the Assistant Chief of the Redlands Police Department. He can be reached at tmartinez@redlandspolice.org.   ■ SPRING 2019 | California Police Chief 31