Los Angeles Police Department surveillance camera looks over the corner of Winson and Wall Streets in downtown Los Angeles, California in December. East Orange plans to install high-powered lights on or next to surveillance cameras as a new way to fight crime. Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/MCTA
East Orange is buying the light technology from a company called The Cordero Group, which is run by the former police director Jose Cordero.
by Eunice Lee
Picture this: You’re walking down the street at night when suddenly a spotlight flashes onto someone lurking beside a parked car and appearing to be jimmying the lock.
Or maybe the light hits two people standing on a corner as they try, discreetly, to exchange cash and a packet of drugs.
If the suspects run, successive lights can follow them — all while a surveillance camera records the action.
That light show is coming to East Orange as new crime-fighting technology the police plan to install in the next three months, acting Police Chief William Robinson said Tuesday. East Orange will be the first police department in New Jersey to implement the “cutting edge technology,” Robinson said.
The Essex County city has seen overall crime plummet 77 percent since 2003, and it fell another 11 percent from 2010 to 2011, officials said at a news conference Tuesday.
The new “light-based intervention system” will be integrated into the police department’s existing 62-camera surveillance system, which is set up around East Orange and which officials largely credit with helping dramatically to cut crime. High-powered lights will be mounted on or adjacent to the cameras, which are remotely connected to a closed-circuit television system.
The footage feeds to a room at police headquarters that’s filled with screens and functions as an intelligence nerve center. Officers monitoring the real-time footage can maneuver both the light and camera in an effort to prevent and deter crime, Robinson said Tuesday as he stood with acting county Prosecutor Carolyn Murray, Sheriff Armando Fontoura and Chief of Detectives Anthony Ambrose.
“How many times (do) camera operators wish they could jump through the video screen and intervene in developing criminal situations while they wait for patrol to arrive?” Robinson asked. “Well, let me tell you, that’s about to change in the city.”
Each unit costs about $7,200, and the police department is still figuring out how many it needs and where in town they’ll be set up, city spokesman Darryl Jeffries said.
Forfeiture funds, not city coffers, will pay for the equipment, said Jillian Barrick, the city administrator.
Both the State Police and Attorney General’s Office said through spokesmen that they had not heard of any other agencies in New Jersey using light-projected cameras.
Robinson said the only comparable technology is in London, where talking cameras were introduced five years ago. Besides spotlighting criminals, he said, the lights can also project lettering on a street to define a school zone, for example.
In a bit of irony, East Orange is buying the light technology from a company called The Cordero Group, which is run by the former police director Jose Cordero. The installation company is Packetalk.
A year ago, Cordero lost his job after a split city council decided not to renew his contract. The vote came despite the success he and then-Chief Ronald Borgo saw in the reduction of violent crime after implementing novel crime-fighting technologies such as the cameras. Following the vote, Borgo announced his retirement, and since then the department has had an acting chief and left the director position unfilled.