Soon, somewhere in the Valley, the police will be watching from the sky.
Sixteen wireless surveillance cameras will be placed in about 10 weeks around the Los Angeles Police Department's Topanga and West Valley divisions, which cover 66 square miles and about 450,000 people.
The city Police Commission approved a plan Tuesday to spend nearly $680,000 on the camera system if the mayor approves a contract with Reston, Va.-based CelPlan Technologies.
So where will they go?
"I'm not telling you where I'm putting the cameras," Capt. Tom Brascia, the Topanga Division commander, said with a laugh.
He said revealing where the cameras are would only help criminals, but added, "It's going to be the area where we think we have the most crime, obviously. And that may shift."
The cameras have been in the works for four years, but were held up because Councilman Dennis Zine insisted they be mobile.
These will send video over cell-phone networks, unlike existing cameras in the Mission Division, which are stationary and work via microwave signals.
In police work, the advantage of being mobile is obvious.
"The crime moves, the cameras move," said Capt. Nick Zingo, co-commander of the West Valley Division.
That means there could be more cameras in West Valley at some times and more in Topanga at others. They won't be monitored 24 hours a day, but they'll be watched by officers and more frequently by members of a 40-member "volunteer surveillance team" shared between Topanga and West Valley.
The system will record so officers can review footage later to help catch criminals and prosecutors can use it as evidence in court.
The $679,000 comes from discretionary funds controlled by Zine, revenue generated by ad sales on public benches and other street furniture. About $636,000 would go to CelPlan, and the rest is earmarked for high-speed Internet lines and other technology to support.
As technology improves, it's likely there will be more cameras with better capabilities. In a few years, officers might be able to watch them from computers in their patrol cars.
"How cool would that be?" Brascia asked...
Not so cool. For one thing, your officers would be spying on us all the time. Maybe some of them aren't such good people...