LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California are expanding their use of surveillance technology such as intelligent video analytics, digital biometric identification and military-pedigree software for analyzing and predicting crime, according to a report in the LA Weekly. Information on the identity and movements of millions of Southern California residents is being collected and tracked, according to the recent article.
According to the article, titled “Forget the NSA, the LAPD Spies on Millions of Innocent Folks,” Los Angeles is emerging as a major laboratory for testing and scaling up new police surveillance technologies. The use of military-grade surveillance tools is migrating from places like Fallujah to neighborhoods including Watts and even low-crime areas of the San Fernando Valley, where surveillance cameras are proliferating like California poppies in spring.
The use of militarized surveillance technology appears to be spreading beyond its initial applications during the mid-2000s in high-crime areas to now target narrow, specific crimes such as auto theft. Now, LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff are monitoring the whereabouts of residents whether they have committed a crime or not. The biggest surveillance net is license plate reading technology that records your car’s plate number as you pass police cruisers equipped with a rooftop camera, or as you drive past street locations where such cameras are mounted.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California are suing LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department, demanding to see a sample week’s worth of that data in order to get some idea of what cops are storing in a vast and growing, regionally shared database. (See the LA Weekly story “License Plate Recognition Logs Our Lives Long Before We Sin,” published in 2012.)
Two dozen police agencies have gathered more than 160 million data points showing the exact whereabouts of L.A.-area drivers on given dates. You can read the full text of the article here.