New York City is touting a new weapon in its war on crime: cell phone cameras.
Tipsters in New York City can now send photos and video from computers and Web-enabled cell phones and PDAs to the city's 911 and non-emergency hot lines to report crimes and quality-of-life issues such as potholes, officials announced Tuesday.
While many cities' emergency systems are equipped to accept text messages, this is believed to be the first system that also is able to process photos and video.
When 911 callers tell police operators that photos or video related to their complaint are available, a detective with the New York Police Department's Real Time Crime Center will call back to receive the images.
Depending on the case, the images may be shared widely with the public, with police officers on patrol, individual detectives or other law enforcement agencies, according to city officials. The images may also be used to help in assessing and responding to emergencies.
"When it comes to crime fighting, a picture is worth more than a thousand words," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement. "This is just one more tool to help the public help the police in our powerful partnership."
Kelly said all images would be welcomed, including videos like the one posted to YouTube in July that showed a New York police officer body-checking a bicyclist who was taking part in a protest ride.
The image software cost about $250,000 and took about 18 months to develop, city officials told the Associated Press. In preparation for the upgrade, more than 12,000 new computers were reportedly installed in precincts around the city and police operators received special training on how to handle emergency calls that contained images or video.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the technology's ability to deliver information instantaneously to the city's 911 operators, who handle 11 million calls annually.
"By upgrading 911 and 311 to accept photos and video, we are bringing government accountability--and crime-fighting--to a whole new level," Bloomberg said in a statement. "If your cell phone is equipped with a camera--and many are these days--you might be able to get a picture of something that will help the police solve a crime."