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City Could Adopt AI-Equipped Camera Pilot Programs

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By Jorge Casuso

September 20, 2023 -- Two City pilot programs that use AI-equipped cameras to deter crime and scan for parking violations should be permanently implemented, transportation officials told the City Council Wednesday.

Both of the programs -- which launched with "no-cost pilots to test innovative technologies" -- have shown promising results, according to an information item sent to the City Council.

One pilot program used automated, AI-powered camera systems installed in May on two Big Blue Buses operating on Lincoln Boulevard to scan bus lanes and bus stop zones for illegally parked vehicles.

The other used a proactive video monitoring (“virtual guard”) system installed at the Main Library in June "to determine if that service could improve the safety of City facilities after hours," said the report from Interim Transportation Director Anuj Gupta.

The bus lane monitoring program -- which used equipment installed on one Route 3 bus and one Rapid 3 service bus -- "was for data-collection purposes only" and did not enforce parking violations, the report said.

During the 45-day pilot, a total of 606 bus-only lane and bus stop violation incidents were reported, according to the data collected.

Of those, 335 incidents took place in the Lincoln Boulevard bus-only lane in Santa Monica, with about 80 percent of them taking place during the southbound afternoon parking restrictions.

The data show that "significantly more violation incidents occurred on Fridays (160) and Thursdays (133) than on other days of the week," according to the report.

Per State law, "all video data collected during the pilot was only for the purpose of assessing the value of the technology, kept confidential, and erased within 15 days of the conclusion of the pilot," the report said.

City staff "plans to continue internal discussions and then participate in a competitive procurement for this technology," which LA Metro is currently in the process of procuring, according to the report.

The 60-day proactive video monitoring pilot -- which was launched on May 29 -- used live feeds from seven wireless cameras installed in "highly trafficked" areas at the Main Library. The camera feeds were monitored 24 hours a day by the pilot vendor’s trained staff .

When the system identified a trespassing incident or crime, staff was alerted and the "intruders" told through loudspeakers "to leave the premises immediately or law enforcement will be called."

"In most cases, the individuals leave quickly and do not return, but if they do not leave despite several warnings, security personnel (provided by Good Guard) or law enforcement (in the case of criminal activity) are dispatched."

During the pilot period, there was "an overall decrease in behaviors such as skateboarding in entry/exit courtyard areas, dumpster diving, loitering, and drug/alcohol use on City property," according to the report.

"Additionally, facilities staff noted a cleaner space in the mornings before the library’s opening hours, with less mess and hazardous waste requiring clean-up compared to pre-pilot,"

In total, the pilot system identified and managed 145 incidents, including 19 referrals to Good Guard Security and 7 police dispatches, according to the report.

The pilot also showed "a significant reduction in incidents overall" -- from an average of 10 nightly incidents on weekdays and 14 incidents on weekends to fewer than four incidents nightly.

Per City policy, the data was stored "onsite for no more than 30 days and in the cloud for an additional 14 days before securely deleting data no longer needed."

The City's Information Services Department will be "evaluating the best path forward for this security service, including ways to implement the technology at other locations," the report said.

Staff also is evaluating how the technology can be integrated into the the Santa Monica Analytical Real-Time Center, or SMART Center, being proposed by the Police Department.

The center will enhance surveillance capabilities by using technologies that include closed-circuit television cameras and a video management system, automated license plate readers and unmanned aircraft systems.

SMPD plans to use part of a $6.1 million grant from the State to install the center ("SMPD Gets Over $6 Million to Combat Retail Theft," September 18, 2023).

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