July 2, 2012 By Brian Heaton
As some U.S. residents watch the night sky light up with fireworks on July 4, various law enforcement agencies will be keeping a close eye on celebratory activities using video technology and social media.
For instance, cops in both Philadelphia and in Newport Beach, Calif., are experimenting with video cameras in order to help keep the peace and enforce the law during Independence Day festivities. Meanwhile, the Arvada, Colo., police will be monitoring Facebook and Twitter for citizen reports on raucous gatherings and illegal fireworks.
In an interview with Government Technology, Jill McGranahan, public information officer for the Arvada Police Department, said fireworks are banned in the city except for an official fireworks show the city’s events team puts on. So to help officers have up-to-the-minute leads from residents, a hotline was established for people to call and report illegal fireworks use. In addition, social media will also play a much larger communications role for the department on July 4.
The Arvada PD has had a social media presence for a few years now. But its popularity is dictating more involvement between the department and citizens.
“We’re putting out a lot of stuff on Facebook, Twitter and the website saying fireworks are banned and let’s be safe,” McGranahan said.
“[There is] a lot of re-tweeting of information put out by the Arvada police,” she added. “It’s a specific segment of our population and there are still traditional methods of communication as well, but social media is an important tool for us now.”
The city also has a GPS-enabled mobile app that allows people to record the location, take a picture of an event and report the issue they’re concerned over.
Fire danger in Colorado is particularly high this year due to dry and windy conditions. Devastating fires in Colorado Springs and other Rocky Mountain cities have displaced thousands of residents and destroyed hundreds of homes. More than 30 cities and counties across the state have canceled municipal fireworks shows, according to a report from LiveScience.
Starting this week, a handful of Philadelphia police officers will use miniature cameras that are attached to their glasses, hat or collar, according to CBS Channel 3 in Philadelphia.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the cameras will be used to have an accurate record of events when an officer interacts with citizens. This way if there is a complaint later on, there is a video record of the situation. Although due to wiretap laws, no audio will be recorded.
In Newport Beach, the Daily Pilot reported that police will experiment with temporary surveillance cameras to assist with observation of Independence Day parties.
Lt. Evan Sailor of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department told the Daily Pilot’s Mike Reicher that the cameras are meant to give officers better situational awareness. So if an incident appears to be escalating, reinforcements can be brought in quickly.
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