All right, it's a shameless plug - my piece in the November issue of Fast Company on police surveillance cameras in and around the long-troubled South L.A. housing complex. In updating the year-old Motorola/LAPD project, I found very little resistance among residents about 24/7 surveillance – and that’s turning out to be a common reaction. With millions of dollars in federal grants, mostly being used as seed money, cameras can be found in most cities (and even towns). They’re such a part of the daily routine that placing them on telephone poles doesn’t seem much of a stretch. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 71 percent of Americans favor the increased use of surveillance cameras, while 25 percent oppose it. Here's more from Fast Company:
Over the years, Motorola has supplied the LAPD with everything from handheld radios to a computer-aided dispatch network. The company became interested in the Jordan Downs project as a way to grow its wireless-broadband business for police departments and other law-enforcement agencies. Earlier this year, the city of Plano, Texas, approved the purchase of a $21 million Motorola broadband system that lets cops access crime data from the field. It's still a relatively small revenue source for Motorola, but the growth potential is large and the margins are better than those for cell phones. "This is exciting technology to law enforcement," says Hugh O'Donnell, a sales manager with Motorola's government and public-safety divisions, who is working on the Jordan Downs program. "And it's a test bed for us. Over the next several years, this is where the industry is going."
So far, the Jordan Downs program is a work in progress, despite the drop in crime figures. The surveillance system is frequently down for maintenance or changes to equipment. At LAPD's Southeast Precinct, a five-minute drive from Jordan Downs, a big-screen monitor carries live feeds of the surveillance, but [an LAPD sergeant] can't maneuver the cameras on the day I visit because Motorola's tech people are making software fixes. At the same time, video isn't available in the cruisers because the department is updating its overall communications network.