The voice in a back alley of a gang-ridden section of Los Angeles says, “Stop. It is illegal to spray graffiti or to dump trash here. We’ve just taken your photograph, and we will use this photograph to prosecute you. Leave the area now.” It comes from a “talking” surveillance camera officials hope will deter gang-related graffiti and, by extension, gang activity itself, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The cameras, a variation on cameras used for years to snap pictures of traffic scofflaws and loiterers, were installed last week at three Los Angeles sites where gang violence has been rising. Seven more are to be installed soon.
“The graffiti cameras are one more tool in the city’s arsenal to prevent crime,” says Anthony Pacheco, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission. “Graffiti is a by-product of gang life. By deterring the crime of ‘tagging’ [done to identify gang turf], the cameras deter one communication mechanism of gangs, and therefore help deter more severe crimes, such as murder, associated with gangs.” For five years, crime rates have fallen in Los Angeles, with one exception: gang-related violence. What’s innovative about the new cameras, besides the voice recording, is that they are wireless and solar-powered. That means officials can move them easily to new locations. They can download the information captured by each camera without a person standing in a bucket raised and lowered by a crane.