In 2008, government officials and police in Orlando, Fla., instituted I.R.I.S. (the Innovative Response to Improve Safety initiative). The program included more 60 cameras as part of phase one to monitor local activities. It signified, as Mayor Buddy Dyer described it, "entering a new era of community policing -- an era in which the power of pixels can make us a safer city."
The latest subject to be caught in a crime by the cameras was nabbed for smoking marijuana. WKMG Local 6 reports Joe Haywood being spotted by in an area monitored for drug activity using an I.R.I.S. camera. It reports the arrest affidavit stating, officers approached three men who were suspected of being in possession of the drug, at which point Haywood put the alleged joint in his mouth and swallowed it.
Haywood was arrested and has been charged with possession of cannabis and "tampering with physical evidence" -- that would be his swallowing of the marijuana he was accused of smoking. The report states the officers tried to open Haywood's mouth but he kept clenched and swallowed whatever he put into it. WKMG reports the officers noting a "green leafy substance" on Haywood's teeth when he did open up and smelling cannabis on his clothing.
Still, the station contacted a legal expert to see if camera evidence and other clues found on Haywood's body should be cause enough for the arrest:
Local 6 legal expert Amir Ladan said the issue with Haywood's arrest is that it wasn't originally based on the evidence but instead on an officer's opinion of what appeared to be a joint.
"I don't know that they can watch a video and then rush to a scene and try to make an arrest based of a video," Ladan told Local 6. "So if they show up and these three guys are hanging out and passing around a handful of peanuts, they've got nothing."
Be sure to check out WKMG's video report regarding the arrest here. The video report states that some believe it is the "officer's opinion" that what was seen being smoked on the camera was a joint. Haywood and his attorney are arguing that the camera may not accurately represent what was actually going on.
According to the I.R.I.S. program website, the cameras were installed to allow police officers to "intervene in crimes as, or even before, they happen." The cameras are monitored 24-hours-a-day by specially trained officers from central command. Here's more on the program:
I.R.I.S. is a textbook example of the way police departments around the world are embracing technology as a way to enhance safety and increase the quality of life in their respective communities. The use of cameras and camera network technology as part of a larger crime fighting and crime prevention initiative represents a major technological leap forward for Orlando’s law enforcement community.
Watch this 2011 video from the city that announced new cameras being added to the program, which at the time had helped in more than 400 crimes:
Orlando is not alone in using cameras around the city to prevent and/or monitor for criminal activity. Earlier this year, TheBlaze reported cameras in Baltimore, Md., were being upgraded to a higher-quality, high-definition version. Police in the city cited a reduction in crime since its camera monitoring program started.
The Huffington Post also points to police officials in Madison, Wisc., saying they've had so much success with their program, which uses 118 cameras, that they would like to install more.