Update: See previous posts – March 18, 2009 Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) in British Columbia, March 15, 2009 Lights, Cameras, Roll’em (April 2009 – Toronto)
In these austere times, when cutbacks are the norm and wages of over one (1) million Ontarians have been frozen by the Premier for the next two (2) years and the City of Toronto is warning property owners that a significant rise in property taxes will be seen in future budgets and the Federal and Provincial Governments are grappling with record deficits; it is surprising that we accept enormous expenditures being laid out for the latest innovative technology.
Boys love toys. Police forces, which are predominately male, are of no exception. Our Big Brother wants the latest and most up to date toys and cost is of no concern. If another force has a new toy, then our force should have it to.
Last year it was announced that digital video/audio recording systems, would begin to be installed in police vehicles, starting in those Toronto Police Divisions (Divisions 14, 51 & 52) given that these police stations are up to date technologically, with fibre optic networks. The technology installed in each police cruiser, consists of a solid-state digital video and audio system. This allows a police officer, who is approaching your vehicle, to wear a microphone and to digitally record the entire conversation with video and audio. As you are speaking to the police officer, the audio is being taped and the exchange between yourself and the police officer that has approached you, is being videotaped from the police vehicle. According to police, police officers who are wearing microphones, are suppose to inform the motorist, when they are pulled over, that their police vehicles have in them, systems that “record their interactions, in both video and audio format”
Once the police officer has provided a certificate of offence (a “ticket”) to the driver, the police officer can simply download the digital video/audio recording, near (via wireless download) or at a police station. The digital recording is maintained automatically for a year or can be stored for longer periods, if the police officer who issued the ticket, initiates this option, at his/her discretion. All this information is downloaded onto computers and can be (and will be) readily retrieved and used as evidence, in the courts, against the motorist who received the ticket.
This same digital video and audio system ( Panasonic Arbitrator Camera Systems ) can be used externally (outside of the police vehicle) and internally (inside the police vehicle). Each vehicle that contains this technology is equipped with two (2) digital video recorders, one facing the rear seat and one facing the front of the vehicle (which can capture any interaction in front of the vehicle. Police say that this allows the movements of any prisoners that are being transported to be captured on video.
The digital video/audio systems used are not always running or on automatic, in fact the only time these systems turn on automatically, is when the “collision sensors” within the police vehicle are activated. Everything else is turned on manually by the police officer, at his/her discretion.
How much does all of this cost?
The City of Toronto 2010 Budget, reflects the expenditure and percentage of the overall budget of each department:
Toronto Police Service, $890.4 Million , 24% of budget
TTC, $512.5 Million , 14% of budget
Fire Services, $359.1 Million , 10% of budget
Toronto Employment & Social Services, $324.6 Million , 9% of budget
Parks , Forestry & Recreation, $259.8 Million , 7% of budget
Shelter, Support & Housing Administration, $258.7 Million , 7% of budget
Transportation Services, $180.8 Million , 5% of budget
Toronto Public Library, $166.9 Million , 4% of budget
Children’s Services, $70.8 Million , 2% of budget
EMS, $65.6 Million , 2% of budget
Long Term Care Homes & Services, $46.8 Million , 1% of budget
Toronto Public Health, $44.2 Million , 1% of budget
Economic Development & Culture, $26.4 Million , 1% of budget
Municipal Licensing and Standards, $19.2 Million , 1% of budget
City Planning, $13.2 Million , 0% of budget
Other, ($81.0 Million), (2%) of budget
Debt Charges, $400.0 Million , 11% of budget
Technology utilized by the Toronto police constitutes an enormous cost to the taxpayer, and their department will soon cost .25 cents out of every dollar available to the City through its operating budget. Do the police really need every toy available to every police force, particularily during a recession?
ALPR is an abbreviation for “Automatic Licence Plate Recognition” technology.
British Columbia police have had this toy for years now and the OPP didn’t want to be left out. The OPP made a decision to outfit three (3) of their vehicles with this technology at the cost of approximately $44,000.00 per vehicle or $130,000.00 for 3 vehicles.
This technology that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has adopted, will be deployed in Toronto, Ottawa and Northern Ontario, and is capable of capturing and processing information obtained from seven thousand (7,000) motor vehicle licence plates per hour.
The ALPR consists of three (3) digital video cams (which are connected to the computer). These video cams are capable of recording images of each vehicle, including the occupants of those vehicles being recorded. The computer software of the ALPR, isolates the licences and runs them through the systems, cross-checking them against all of the databases which the computer is linked to (and there are many).
At the commencement of any particular day, the OPP officer will activate the ALPR and perform a daily download of CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre’s database, which in addition to identifying those individuals which have outstanding arrest warrants; also acts as the automated criminal records retrieval system which has full access to the Criminal Name Index (CNI) ) and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s Database information. The system can be programmed to instantly identify stolen motor vehicle licence plates, unlicensed motor vehicle plates, suspended motor vehicle plates, uninsured motor vehicles and motor vehicles with expired validation tags (which haven’t been renewed in a timely fashion).
With all forms of crime down, is it an absolute necessity to have all of the latest, most expensive technology at our disposal, just because it is there to be had?
This technology is very expensive and the improvement of this technology will continue to increase in cost in the future.