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Law enforcement

Police using helmet cameras to record, reduce violent crime

Tuesday, February 06, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: law enforcement, digital cameras, police state


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(NewsTarget) Police in the British city of Plymouth have announced that affixing small digital cameras to the side of officers' helmets has drastically increased officers' ability to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of violent crime.

During the first 10 weeks of the pilot project, arrests for violent crime in the test area increased by 85 percent. This includes a 40 percent increase in the detection of such crimes and a 20 percent increase in the arrest and prosecution of suspects. Police also noted an 8 percent drop in the incidence of violent crime in the test area.

According to detective superintendent Richard Wood, head of a similar pilot program in London, the cameras' primary value is in making it easier for officers to prosecute those they observe committing crimes.

"Should anyone commit any offenses," he said, "the officers will instantly have the evidence to ... pursue criminal charges."

The small color cameras, similar in size to an AA battery are attached to the side of officers' helmets and record both audio and video footage of what is going on around them. The cameras being used in the London program, including a special utility belt to store the data, cost about 1,800 ($3,500) per officer.

The Plymouth trial involves approximately 250 officers wearing the cameras for six months and is scheduled to finish in March. Some of the video footage gathered in the first 10 weeks has been released to the public and is available online.

Both the Plymouth and London police departments hope to determine if the cameras would prove useful in other parts of the country.

These new surveillance programs are part of a wider effort in the United Kingdom to monitor citizens more effectively. London police are also experimenting with automated license plate recognition software, increased patrol visibility and airport-style weapons searches.

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