Camera detects when heat is on

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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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