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NYPD’s Next-Gen “Smart Car” Loaded with High-Tech Surveillance Tools

In Archive, NYPD, Surveillance, Technology on December 31, 2013 at 1:41 PM




To the untrained eye, it looks like almost any other New York Police Department cruiser combing the city’s streets—but this squad car has just as much brains as it does brawn.

It is the department’s prototype “smart car,” outfitted with the latest gadgets in public surveillance. It has two infrared monitors mounted on the trunk that record any numbers it sees—such as license plates and addresses. It has surveillance cameras and air sensors capable of sending real-time information to police headquarters. The NYPD says it is the cruiser of the very near future.

The smart car is one of dozens of projects included in a long-term strategic plan known as NYPD2020, prepared in November for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

The 13-page report describes initiatives ranging from the high-tech (500 officers have received Samsung Rugby smartphones equipped to deliver real-time crime data) to the bureaucratic (new guidelines for recruiting and keeping qualified candidates). More than a dozen are already under way.

The initiative began in 2011, under the guidance of McKinsey & Co. The consulting firm worked with NYPD officials over 11 months to create a road map for the department over the next decade. McKinsey & Co. declined to comment.

The smart car prototype has been on the road for about a year and is based out of the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn Heights. The idea came about as the NYPD looked for ways to connect intelligence gathered in the field with the department’s new system that compiles raw data, video feeds and other information, then alerts officials to potential incidents and maps where crimes occur. The system is already at police headquarters, and will soon be in each precinct and command around the city.

The car’s scanner can read license plates, then check the results against a database that contains the plate numbers of cars that are stolen, may have been involved in a crime, or have outstanding infractions. The data is stored for an indefinite period, though that will likely change, Mr. del Pozo said.

Related: NYPD License Plate Readers Will Be Able To Track Every Car Entering Manhattan

“It reads any set of numbers,” Mr. del Pozo said. “If it doesn’t get a hit, it gets stored. We don’t look at [the results] unless an investigation points to them.”

A detector attached to the rear windshield can scan the air for increased radiation levels, and ship the results back to an NYPD command center.

Some of these capabilities already exist in some squad cars, but no other car is outfitted with all of the technology, Mr. del Pozo said, adding that future smart cars might include fingerprint scanners and facial recognition sensors.

No mention in the WSJ story, of course, of the NYPD’s lack of transparency on surveillance and extremely questionable track record as of late when it comes to civil rights, namely wiretapping mosques and the infamous stop and frisk program. Who cares! Police car of the future, baby!

Demolition Man anyone?


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