In August 2017, three months before former-Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the opening of the city’s $5 million Real Time Crime Monitoring Center, the city spent $2.8 million to buy a suite of software from Motorola Solutions that includes artificial intelligence and object detection to help law enforcement sift through the thousands of hours of footage recorded every day.At several junctures during the evolution of the surveilance "canopy," as city and police officials like to call it, that, despite our supposed hysteria, the cameras were minimally intrusive. But here we are wondering if we need to be more mindful of our "dwell time" in public.
The package includes software called BriefCam, CommandCentral Aware, CommandCentral Analytics, and CommandCentral Predictive.
“My initial reaction is, holy cow, this is not just big brother. This is colossal brother,” said Bruce Hamilton, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Louisiana. “When you take a step back, you really get the sense that the surveillance state is rapidly expanding here in New Orleans.”
Still, with the software the city does have, the NOPD could, for example, pull up every piece of footage that includes a man in a red shirt on a blue bike riding north on Esplanade Avenue. Or it could pull up every person with a backpack that appeared on the corner of Broad Street and Orleans Avenue, displaying them all simultaneously on one screen with timestamps over their heads to indicate when they were there.Everybody loves it, though.
“My question is, what does it mean to say you’re not using facial recognition technology when you’re using something that’s equally powerful?” Hamilton said. “So for instance, the city may not be able to identify me by my face, but if the city knows what I’m is wearing, or what I drive, I mean there’s any number of factors they can use to track you from place to place.”
BriefCam can also produce “heat maps” of dwell time, object interaction, and common paths. In a YouTube video from March, the head the Hartford, Connecticut crime center illustrated how he used the software to track the movement paths of everyone who walked in the frame of one of the city’s cameras to track which homes they were coming in and out of. He claimed that the analytics helped him locate a drug operation.
“How long did that take me to do?” he said in the video. “That took me a minute.”