NYPD brings city policing to 21st Century with new tech
The NYPD may not at the point where it can deploy its own RoboCop to patrol the streets, but its high-tech gear is on the cutting edge of crime fighting.
From high-definition cameras to social networking trackers, experts say the NYPD leads the nation when it comes to 21st Century policing, and the agency is still looking for new gadgets for its arsenal.
One particular tool that the NYPD might be exploring would be able to pinpoint gunshots within minutes of them going off.
"When you hear a gun shot, it's anyone's guess where it came from," said City Councilman Peter Vallone, chair of the City Council's Public Safety Committee, who has been pushing the department to test out the device in Astoria, the neighborhood he represents.
"With the new technology, we can find it within feet."
ShotSpotter, which is already being used by the Nassau County Police Department, recognizes gun shots through detectors on rooftops, according to the company's spokeswoman, Lydia Barrett.
If there is a loud noise in the three-square mile radius, the detectors activate, sending the sound to analysts in California who confirm if it is a gunshot and send the info, which includes the near-exact location, to the local precinct within seconds.
"They may not be able to find the shooter, but they can go to the nearby houses and knock on doors," Barrett said.
The spokeswoman couldn't go into complete detail about a potential negotiation with New York authorities but said the NYPD has expressed interest in the detectors. The NYPD wouldn't confirm this, though.
If approved, the gunshot detector would join a long list of new tools that cops are already deploying in the field. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly spoke about some of these initiatives Tuesday during his testimony before the City Council Public Safety Committee.
Domain Awareness Program
Last month, the NYPD launched a one-stop shop for policing that gives it access to license plate detectors, police cameras, arrest records and more. The computer database system, which was created in collaboration with Microsoft, is only used by the city's counterterrorism unit. But Kelly indicated that he would like to expand it to other units in the future.
Eugene O'Donnell, who also teaches at John Jay, said the database is a step in the right direction, because the cross referencing would lead to faster crime solving.
"They have millions of public documents entered in the computer. In many ways law enforcement has been lagging behind in using technology," he said.
To combat the rise of prescription drug abuse and pharmacy burglaries, the NYPD launched Operation Safety Cap. The program keeps a database of the city's 6,000 licensed pharmacists. Also, as part of the operation, cops distribute bait bottles to trick would be thieves.
"These bottles have GPS tracking devices on them. In the event of a robbery or theft, we'll be able to track the bottle which may lead us to stash locations across the city," Kelly said.
Advanced city cameras
The cops already have several CCTV cameras positioned in high risk areas, such as Times Square, and the commissioner said those digital eyes are an upgrade. Kelly said the departement has recently purchased 650 cameras that have IP megapixel technology.
The $9.4 million devices allow for a higher resolution video and more data storage.
"After reviewing the latest technology, we've selected a system that provides better picture quality while remaining compatible with our exisiting network," Kelly said.
Social network monitoring
Criminals and gangs take to Facebook and Twitter to organize and so the police have followed in pursuit. Detectives in the juvenille justice division constantly monitor chatter on the web and try to see what the gangs are up to, Kelly said.
"The division is responsible for maintaining a dictionary of sorts with continuously updated lexicon employed by crews as a kind of code," the commissioner said.