Davie, Fla., police add thermal imaging cameras as a new crime-and-safety tool on patrol cars
Finding a fugitive or detecting the potential for fire in Davie, Fla., will
become easier thanks to three thermal imaging cameras recently acquired
by the police department.
The cameras, from Raytheon Co., are mounted directly above the lights
on police cruisers. Inside the car is a 5.1-inch flat screen for viewing.
A joystick is located next to the screen, enabling the officer to move the
camera 360 degrees around as well as in an up-and-down motion, said Lt.
Gary Killam of the Davie Police Department.
Killam said one patrol car will begin using a camera starting June 3, with the other two hitting the road shortly thereafter. The cost is about $7,000 per unit,
and the police department funded the purchase of the three cameras with help from a law enforcement block grant of about $21,000.
The thermal cameras detect the infrared energy that all objects emit
and can "see" things just as well during the day or night. Such a tool has
many law enforcement and safety uses in Davie, a rural community within
the Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area. For instance, it can aid police officers
in finding people who are hiding or blocked from view in foliage. An officer
also can use the camera in high-speed pursuits at night because of the heat
generated by a vehicle's engine. The camera also could help detect potential
hot spots where a fire could start, thus preventing catastrophe.
"The camera will pick up images that the naked eye cannot see," Killam
said. "For instance, if a man were to be hiding in the bushes and the camera
was directed toward his body, the camera would pick up the image and project
a glow on the screen due to the heat generated from his body."
Killam described a recently conducted test at the Davie Police Department
that highlighted one of its uses. Two officers were placed in front of a
cruiser with a newly installed thermal camera. One of the officers had recently
been exercising while the other had been sitting at a desk all day, Killam
said. The man who had been working out projected a bright glow on the monitor,
but the other man did not.
The experiment showed how an increase in body temperature shows up clearly,
Killam said, explaining that in pursuing someone who may be on foot, the
officer would be able to differentiate the fugitive from a bystander.
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