Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cameras for K-9's

Many departments have had a K-9 department for years.  They use their patrol dogs are used to find criminal suspects. They search buildings and open areas, track suspects that have fled from a crime scene and locate any evidence that a suspect leaves behind. They are used because with their keen sense of smell, a patrol dog can search faster, safer, with less manpower, and more accurately than officers can alone.

The New York Police Department has decided to use some members of their K-9 department a bit differently.  They are outfitting members of their transit bureau K-9 unit with infrared cameras to help the dogs and their handlers see what’s going on in the depths of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rail system.

The infrared cameras are similar to the ones utilized by Navy SEALS during the raid of Osama bin Laden's compound.  In this case, however,  the camera systems are mounted onto a vest that is worn by the dog, with the camera filming from their back.  The camera transmits real time images to a monitor worn on the police officer's wrist, similar to an over-sized watch.  The cameras significantly increase the safety of the officers who work in the dark confined spaces of the subterranean metro system, as they allow the officers to follow their K-9 from a safe distance.  According to Lt. John Pappas, the leader of the transit bureau's K-9 unit, "The cameras can save officers’ lives by enabling us to see what’s down the field before we go there."

Each of the cameras is also equipped with a GPS tracking system and a dog collar that emits a light.  The GPS system allows officers to safely track a K-9 that is trailing a scent or in pursuit of a suspect.  While the light allows a clear field of vision for K-9's that are in dark spaces.

These K-9 camera systems will also be highly beneficial in the unfortunate case of a major accident or terrorist act.  Because the dogs are smaller, they are able to navigate into significantly small spaces.  With their keen sense of smell, they are also more likely to be able to locate survivors than officers who are simply looking and listening for signs of life.

At $9,000, each camera does come with a pretty significant price tag.  The city of New York purchased theirs with grand funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Transportation Security Administration.

More information about this article can be read at The New York Times website.

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