An increasing number of cities are putting mobile and wireless technologies on the street to help deter criminals and identify tax and parking ticket scofflaws, reports computerWorld. Last week, for example, the local government in West Palm Beach, Fl., said it had installed a wireless video surveillance network to give its police department a digital eye on city neighborhoods. Thirteen video cameras connected to 17 wireless mesh nodes were trained on some of the city’s most crime-ridden areas, enabling police to look electronically for gang activity, drug dealing, prostitution, and other crimes. The mesh nodes connect to police headquarters and provide dispatchers with real-time video streams, says vendor Firetide Inc. Each node is coupled with a Wi-Fi access point that enables police officers patrolling the streets to access the video feeds via laptops mounted in their cruisers.
Mayor Lois Frankel isn’t worried that the wireless surveillance network will generate bad publicity for the city, which openly acknowledges that it has a crime problem. “We have only gotten positive feedback, and people like having the cameras,” she said. The city, population 100,000, is launching a program dubbed City-Cam that is aimed at increasing the number of cameras in the network through partnerships with businesses and homeowners’ associations. With police training and supervision, civilian volunteers will monitor the video feeds and notify dispatchers of any incidents they spot. Reaching out to the public is a financial necessity, Frankel said, because the city can’t afford to buy all of the cameras it needs. Framingham, Ma., which has about 67,000 residents, is deploying a townwide Wi-Fi mesh network so its laptop-equipped patrol cars can be online at all times. For now, police officers must drive to public Wi-Fi hot spots to transmit reports via a virtual private network.