NYPD Has New Tool to Amass Evidence in Criminal Cases

August 10, 2012

A new, technologically-advanced system that integrates video and cameras, license plate readers and crime reports is now being used by investigators with the New York City Police Department in an effort to bolster their cases. humaneye.jpg

New York City criminal defense lawyers want potential clients to understand what they're up against with this new technology - and why it's more important now more than ever not to rely on a public defender.

It's called the Domain Awareness System, and it was designed in a collaboration with NYPD detectives and Microsoft Corp. software engineers. It uses information from various cameras, radiation detectors, crime reports and license plate readers.

It's more than just a fancy new toy. In fact, it cost somewhere between $30 and $40 million to develop, which means officers will likely be using it a lot. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it is possible that the technology could actually end up making the city money through earnings of 30 percent of whatever profit Microsoft lands by selling the same system to other agencies.

Microsoft was approached by the department, and officers worked side-by-side with programmers.

Essentially, what the system does is create one place where investigators can log in and get a multitude of information on a suspect or incident. Law enforcement always had access to these tools, but they were scattered among many different platforms, and took time to amass for evidence in a single case.

Some of the examples the department is giving:

  • It would allow officers to access live video feed information to show who may have abandoned a suspicious package;
  • It would allow officers to enter a watch list of license plate numbers that will alert officers immediately if the vehicle is detected. That same system will also automatically show prior arrests, warrants and crime reports.
  • It will even allow officers to get a reading on a radioactive substance to determine immediately if it's a naturally-occurring phenomenon or if it may be some type of weapon.

The technology will incorporate video feeds from approximately 3,000 department-owned cameras situated throughout the city, which are working every single hour of every single day. What's more, police have the ability to review that camera footage as far back as a month - or longer if the Deputy Commissioner of Counterterrorism grants permission.

While police and politicians are obviously giddy about this new technology, there has been a good deal of concern voiced by civil liberties advocates, who argue that this type of extensive surveillance could amount to a violation of privacy.

Of course, the terms of use of the device indicates that no one can be monitored or targeted by the system on the sole basis of their race, religion, color, age, creed, national origin, gender, citizenship status, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, political affiliation, military status or beliefs.

However, the people operating this system are only human. We have laws to prevent that type of surveillance as well, but it doesn't necessarily stop officers from engaging in it.

This is where having a criminal defense attorney who is also experienced in civil rights law can work to your advantage. If the evidence is not properly obtained, it can't be used in court.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman offers criminal defense in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or send us an e-mail.

Additional Resources:
NYPD unveils new $40 million super computer system that uses data from network of cameras, license plate readers and crime reports, By Rocco Parascandola and Tina Moore, New York Daily News

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Larcenies, Other Property Crimes, Up in Great Neck, July 29, 2012, New York City Criminal Defense Attorney Blog