Cali's Lancaster Leaps into Daily Police Aerial Surveillance--At Least It’s Not a Drone?

The city of Lancaster, California announced today its “Law Enforcement Aerial Platform System,” a radar system-camera attached to a single-engine Cessna that’s going to conduct surveillance over the city for ten hours a day. It’s kind of like a drone, only not. From KABC in Los Angeles:

The tool has similar capabilities as drones, which are used by the military to scan warzones and transmit live video from the battle field. However, the difference is that drones are remote controlled, whereas the LEAPS technology will be attached to a plane that will have a Los Angeles County deputy inside.

Surveillance video will be transmitted directly to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, according to Wired, which notes the company providing LEAPS is a local one, Spiral Tech, one the California Commission for Job and Economic Growth has dubbed a "California Innovation All Star," no less.

Government Technology has more on the technology and its capabilities:

LEAPS uses both visible and infrared imagery for tracking. City officials said that at the closest level of surveillance, its new “eye in the sky” can identify the color of a person’s clothing, but facial details and license plate numbers will not be visible.

In an e-mail to Government Technology, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris touted the crime-stopping and prevention advantages that aerial coverage will provide the city.

“Everyone knows you see more from above, cover a wider range of observance and are capable of more accurate pursuit with an aerial unit,” he said. The real-time value of LEAPS, Parris said, will be the ability to provide ground patrol units information on criminals’ movements.

LEAPS is reported to cost $1.3 million to launch and $1 million a year to operate (for 152 days worth of hours a year). The Lancaster City Council apparently approved it unanimously. Lancaster’s most recent budget (pdf) notes over the last five years "an overall loss of $15 million in the general fund. Public safety costs have risen $6 million over the same period of time."  The budget points out transfer and release of state inmates as an example of "a number of challenges imposed by federal, state and Los Angeles County laws and policies that hinder economic development and threaten community safety."

Lancaster has tried to push an “aggressive” aerial surveillance system before. The Los Angeles Times reported on an effort in 2009 which included this choice two cents to close:

Antelope Valley blogs have been ablaze with chatter about the new program, both for and against.

Matthew Keltner, 28, a Lancaster high school teacher, wrote: "If having a measure of surveillance overhead is going to make the criminal-minded uncomfortable, and think twice before settling in Lancaster, or engaging in criminal activity, then what's wrong with it?

"I could care less if someone sees me doing water aerobics in my grandmother's pool," he added.

Until, of course, someone interprets that as a crime!

I’ll be talking about this development in domestic surveillance on RT America at 4pm ET.

Semi-related: Last year Lancaster’s mayor proposed broadcasting bird songs in the city.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    This is Spiral Tech. These go to eleven.

  • Pip||

    Best alt-text ever?

  • RBS||

    "I could care less if someone sees me doing water aerobics in my grandmother's pool," he added.

    But does he care of they catch him coming out of his parent's basement?

  • Scarcity||

    I don't care whether the guy piloting the spy plane is in the cockpit or at a desk. Drone/plane is irrelevant, it's the surveillance of the innocent that is BS.

  • Pro Libertate||

    There are no innocent. Merely the unadjudicated.

  • SugarFree||

    Matthew Keltner, 28, a Lancaster high school teacher, wrote: "If having a measure of surveillance overhead is going to make the criminal-minded uncomfortable, and think twice before settling in Lancaster, or engaging in criminal activity, then what's wrong with it?

    The next time some twit is on here whine about how awesome teacher's union are next to have this quote shoved up his or her stinky ringpiece.

  • RBS||

    He deserves to be the first person arrested as a result of aerial surveillance.

  • SugarFree||

    And I hope it's for raping a Rascal scooter.

  • jasno||

    Does that pool include a proper fence around it? Might have to send a few code-compliance officers to check. Oh, and it looks like you didn't file the permits correctly when you installed the pool, so here's a bill covering that, along with a fee for late-payment.

    Let's see, your facebook page shows you own a gun, so we'll have to send a SWAT team along just to keep the code officers safe. We'll be by next Tuesday around 5 a.m. just to make sure you don't have time to hide anything else.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    "Oh, and it looks like you didn't file the permits correctly when you installed the pool, so here's a bill covering that, along with a fee for late-payment"

    You skipped making him tear out the old pool and restoring the property to its previous appearance.

  • jasno||

    Well now the pool is a wetland, so you need the feds to grant permission to fill it in... :)

  • ||

    Cali's Lancaster Leaps into Daily Police Aerial Surveillance..."

    I thought you meant one of these:
    http://denofzeus.blogspot.com/.....-into.html

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    Here's hoping the damn thing crashes into the Lancaster police station. I would also ask all residents of Lancaster to give this plane the finer each and every time it flies overhead.

  • Suki||

    It is flown by a drone.

  • ||

    imnsho the issue with drones used "in the homeland" (barf) isn't that they are unmanned, and thus drones. it's WHAT they are doing - spying on people from overhead, a vantage point that people REASONABLY assume they are not being spied on from.

    contrast with, for rxample, ground level surveillance or observation, where people don't have an expectation that others can see what they are doing (like walking around in a mall)

    i have no problem with police helicopters, in their classic role to provide visual support etc. during pursuits or when i am alone in an alley with a couple of suspcious people doing a terry stop and the helicopter arrives and spotlights us from above. ThAT is a comfort.

    this lancaster shit is heinous because it's spying on people where they should have a privacy interest

    "I don't care whether the guy piloting the spy plane is in the cockpit or at a desk. Drone/plane is irrelevant, it's the surveillance of the innocent that is BS."

    EXACTLY

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Not exactly Blue Thunder is it?

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