Los Angeles police are increasingly relying on technology that not only tells patrol officers where crime is most likely to occur but also identifies and keeps track of ex-cons and others they believe are most likely to commit them, says the Associated Press. The program — part data collection, part lightning-fast computer platform, part street-level intelligence-gathering — is expanding in L.A. with the help of a new $400,000 federal grant and has drawn interest from departments across North America.
Dubbed LASER, it is one of the new law enforcement tools that uses data tracking and collection — such as license plate scanners and cellphone trackers — often with little public knowledge or regulation. Privacy advocates say LASER isn’t transparent, has no clear oversight and unjustly focuses on keeping ex-convicts under suspicion. LASER uses technology developed by the CIA’s venture capital arm that allows investigators to match up vast troves of data from 15 separate sources to connect dots that they otherwise might miss. Officials from New York, Nevada, Wisconsin, Washington, Texas and Canada have been briefed on the system.