Over the past few years, numerous cameras were installed in downtown Los Angeles to help reduce crime. The city didn’t pay for these cameras; business owners and concerned members of the community did. And now, those who spent their money and those who supported the partnership are upset as the LAPD has admittedly not been using them at all.
The LAPD agreed to monitor and maintain the cameras if they were supplied by outside businesses. Unfortunately, they haven’t followed through on their end of the bargain. Many of the cameras are broken and some have not even been plugged in. Six cameras in Little Tokyo haven’t been wired to send signals to the monitoring bank at the police station. In other words, they are just for show.
A broken camera can be found above the corner where a 53 year old man was recently stabled and beaten to death by more than 6 attackers. No arrests have been made in the case, which occurred on Skid Row.
Estela Lopez, the director of the Central City East Association, says “It’s heartbreaking to see a network of cameras gifted to the LAPD sitting idle while perpetrators of violence get away with murder on our most dangerous streets.” Her organization, incidentally, donated 10 of the cameras at a total cost of about $200,000.
Officials with the LAPD admit they are in the wrong, that they have failed to live up to the expectations of the people of the city. They say part of the reason is that no one was trained on using the cameras and many have ended up broken by officers who were unsure of what they were doing.
Deputy Chief Jose Perez Jr. compares the issue to buying a car without an extended warranty and then trying to “make it work.” Police Commissioner Alan Skobin, however, says the issue is much bigger and says “We need to embrace technology, but it’s important that when the department promises something to the public that they follow through.”
Several years ago, the department faced similar criticism over a group of cameras in MacArthur Park. Those cameras have since been repaired. But the downtown cameras have not. Lopez says, “Frankly, I got tired of asking…it seems like at every turn there was an impediment to putting these cameras to the use for which they were intended.”
Whether or not such cameras prevent or merely move crime is a matter worthy of study, but if the police agreed to maintain these and paid nothing for them, it would seem this is another instance of the LAPD falling short of the public’s expectations.