By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
August 28, 2012 – With just the click of a computer mouse, the Long Beach Police Department has the capability to access live and archived video of locations throughout the city to be used as a visual aid in the event of a crime.
Long Beach Camera Operating Picture (LBCOP) is a new system in Long Beach helping local police officers better address criminal activity as it happens. The system connects a network of city-owned cameras and privately owned cameras in Long Beach through Internet protocol addresses that allow police to access a visual feed.
Long Beach Police Department Lt. Ken Rosenthal observes the computer monitors
connected into the Long Beach Common Operating Picture (LBCOP) system.
Above him are large monitors as part of what is called the “situation wall,”
where designated dispatchers may observe criminal activity in action.
These dispatchers may use information from the visuals to assist police officers on the street
in addressing a crime. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)
There are approximately 400 cameras installed that LBCOP can use as a tool for intelligence, according to Long Beach Police Sergeant Aaron Eaton. Local businesses and private property owners who have cameras installed compatible with LBCOP are able to provide information to the police so they can tap into the equipment as needed.
The system development, a nearly two-year endeavor, began with a concept to use existing technology. From there, the police department used computer software and camera systems to develop a way for a dispatcher or operator to tap into different systems currently in place, such as license plate readers in patrol cars.
LBCOP, which is part of the communications and training division of the police department, has evolved since its conception. It is a continual process, Eaton said, “to see where we can make better advancements in technology as they come out and in the way we actually operate the system.” Today, the process for tapping into a video camera feed, in terms of speed, is equal to “the time it takes to switch a button,” he said.
The system is currently in a testing phase, Eaton said, but so far the community response to LBCOP has been positive. “This is a great example of the police department and the community working together to attack crime, not only crime itself but the fear of crime,” he said. “This system is engaging the community.”
Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, said he has seen police officers coming to the district to talk to shop owners about the program. “They literally walked up and down the street and talked to folks, got a few signed up here,” he said.
Signing up to give police access to business security cameras is “a no-brainer,” Cohn said. “I think anything we can do to partner with the police department – why wouldn’t we do it? It just makes sense. I would encourage everybody who has cameras that can give the cops access to it, to do so.”
Dede Rossi, executive director of the Belmont Shore Business Association, agreed. “We have been passing out forms to our members for the past year, waiting for it to happen,” she said of the LBCOP launch. “Commander Beckman comes to our monthly meetings and also brings it up, and I’ve put it in our e-mail newsletter that it is available. I don’t know how many have taken advantage of it on the street yet. I hope a lot have. It’s been in the works for a while, as far as getting the word out there.”
Businesses and residential property owners who have their cameras connected to LBCOP have been offered a sign to put in a window or other place visible to the public. These signs were produced through the Long Beach Police Foundation, Eaton said.
For those concerned about the cameras potentially invading privacy, LBCOP does not have any facial recognition capabilities and is limited to use in the event of a crime only, Eaton said. “These cameras are accessed and monitored as needed, in the event of an incident or for a large-scale event,” he said. “Take the Grand Prix, for example. At such a large scale event, we would be able to better serve the employees and officers on the ground.”
Right now the total cost for the LBCOP system, equipment, installation and training of officers on its use is $560,000, according to Eaton. The majority of the funding has come from state and federal grants, though a small amount did come from the general fund, he said. Future costs down the road could include hiring an intelligence analyst to work with the LBCOP.
While there may be other cities that have similar systems in place throughout the country, Eaton said Long Beach Police is not familiar with any other system like LBCOP. “There are differences in the way that they are operating their particular centers,” he said. “Our center is unique in that it allows the ability to use camera systems in the city . . . for real time intelligence gathering for officers responding for service.”
The department does not currently have any data to show the success of such a system, but information will be gathered over the next several months, Eaton said. “We certainly will be able to provide success stories where Long Beach COP was instrumental in assisting in [stopping] criminal activity,” he said.
When asked if there has been any thought by the police department to “check in” on high crime areas through the LBCOP system, Eaton said, “There isn’t a particular goal for us to place them in high crime areas, though right now the system is still in its infancy and we are going to use the existing cameras that we have throughout the city. Some of those may be in higher areas of crime.”
At a time when budgets are being cut, the city and police department are welcoming this technology. “This is just another way for the police department to try to use technology to assist us in our job,” Eaton said. “Long Beach COP is not necessarily meant to replace a cop on the street.”
Businesses or residential property owners who would like to connect their camera systems to LBCOP should contact Officer Eduardo Reyes by e-mailing Eduardo.Reyes@longbeach.gov.