St Louis police taking a different approach to camera technology

Posted on May 01, 2015

Body cameras have been a hot topic in the realm of law enforcement technology in recent months. This hardware offers two major advantages: the ability to maintain an accurate record of the actions of officers and those they interact with and the recording of useful evidence for the legal proceedings that follow an arrest. Body cameras have even become a hot-button issue of sorts, with proponents and detractors bringing a variety of points to public discussions about the issue. The New York Daily News recently discussed how two of the largest organizations in the country - the New York and Los Angeles Police Departments -  are involved with this technology. The LAPD is currently using body cameras, while the NYPD is studying the feasibility of equipping its officers with the devices.

A different approach to camera use in St. Louis

While it hasn't garnered nearly as much attention as body cameras, recent efforts on the part of the St. Louis Police Department have provided their organization with an effective method to document incidents and gather intelligence. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported officers in the city will soon have the advantage of constant connection to a wide-reaching grid of public and private security cameras, similar to systems in Chicago and other major metropolises.

Specifically, according to The Post-Dispatch, the network includes cameras in some of the city's largest business districts, as well as those used by the St. Louis Port Authority and the city's streets department. The network also includes red light cameras in the city as well as license plate scanners. The control room for the platform, dubbed the Real Time Crime System, is located in the police department's headquarters and is staffed on a 24-hour schedule by a total of eight officers. The network can currently access a total of 140 cameras across the city, but the department aims to eventually have thousands of such devices connected to the network.

Considerations for appropriate use

One issue noted in the article from The Post-Dispatch was the distinction between private and public cameras. Because a law enforcement agency is using the camera for official government work - and the cameras on private property would be accessed directly by police instead of a property owner - officers are limited in how the footage gathered can be used. Technically, the lenses can only be focused on public spaces where there's no expectation of privacy, which may limit their effectiveness in some situations.

The importance of technology in effective policing

Law enforcement agencies have to understand the advantages that technology provides. The Internet and dramatic upgrades in computing and network connectivity have made it feasible for resources - ranging from security cameras to internal information-sharing platforms - to be used in new and effective ways. Crime control efforts are made easier with cutting-edge systems focused on the accurate collection, storage and dispersal of information. Systems such as NC4 Street Smart allow law enforcement agencies to become more efficient in sharing necessary data and more effective in using it to reduce crime.

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