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Calif. city weighs more high-tech options in response to recent violence

Shotspotter, license plate readers and doorbell cameras are all in the conversation


By Brennon Dixson
Los Angeles Daily News

PASADENA, Calif. — Pasadena‘s leaders are considering new high-tech ways to combat crime in the wake of another fatal shooting of a young person in the city.

Authorities charged a 24-year-old man on Friday, Jan. 21, with the murder of a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the head on Jan. 18 at a Pasadena intersection.

Back in November, 13-year-old Iran Moreno-Balvaneda was killed by a stray bullet while playing video games in his bedroom. No arrests have been made in the case.

Pasadena Police Department officers have confiscated more than 700 firearms in the last two years — even though reported crimes in the city are the lowest in a decade, according to recently released statistics. Homicides dropped from 7 in 2020 to 6 in 2021.

However, the deaths of two teenagers within weeks of one another, combined with a number of other shootings in the area, have inspired many in the community to demand a response. Desperate for a solution, district representatives have united with constituents publicly and privately to hear concerns.

Some of the options offered are electronic. City officials are discussing investing in automatic license-plate readers and residential doorbell cameras that will link up with Shotspotter, a previously-approved, albeit controversial, gunshot-detection system, aiming to stitch together a virtual safety net.

“Utilizing cameras, license plate readers and Shotspotter, we’ll know exactly – and I want people to know this – we’re going to know exactly where you shot a gun; we’ll know your license plate from residents’ door cams, and every agent in the region will be looking for you,” Councilman Tyron Hampton said in an interview. “You’re not going to get away.”

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Such measures have come on the heels of community meetings staged to raise concern and arrive at solutions. At one such meeting, hundreds braved the pandemic to gather in northwest Pasadena in late October, less than 24 hours after Councilman John Kennedy announced a meeting after children in a local park were forced to crawl to safety during a shootout.

Earlier this week, Kennedy, who represents the area where the killings of the two teens occurred, called for “a massive law enforcement response.”

Meanwhile, residents gathered for a meeting with Councilwoman Jessica Rivas on Thursday, Jan 20, to discuss the installation of cameras at Villa Park, the first city park to have such technology installed, she said during the meeting.

Crediting Hampton with bringing camera installations forward for discussion, Rivas acknowledged many constituents in her district have been in favor of expanding upon the technology in use at the park.

Some hope to see Pasadena participate in Neighbors, the crime-focused companion app created by the company that makes and markets Ring doorbell security cameras.

The program is already in use in some neighboring cities such as Alhambra. In total, The company has launched video-sharing partnerships with more than 400 local police departments, according to the Washington Post.

It’s not yet known if a Pasadena-based program would entail, but a discussion will likely come before the City Council in February, according to Mayor Victor Gordo.

Hampton said he would welcome such an addition to the city’s crime fighting repertoire.

“Because everybody knows if there’s a lot of cameras in the neighborhood, then people are less likely to do something because everybody’s watching,’ Hampton said. So it’s now time that we give our neighbors the tools to be able to participate in solving crimes and deterring crime from happening in the neighborhood.”

Gordo echoed those thoughts in a separate interview, encouraging his colleagues, police and prosecutors to ensure those who commit a crime in Pasadena are caught and face repercussions.

“Technology used by residents, in coordination with police and Shotspotter, has a multiplying effect that will help serve as a deterrent and assist us in quickly responding to and capturing those responsible for criminal activity. Look no further than some of the recent crimes,” Gordo said. “The best footage that’s assisted the police department has come from video captured by resident-owned cameras.”

Pasadena Police Department Lt. Bill Grisafe said Friday he couldn’t provide complete details of this week’s murder case, but said technology helped lead to the arrest.

“But Ring video helped capture the Sunnyslope Avenue suspect, and that’s really what we’re trying to use technology for – to help us solve crimes,” Grisafe said. “These technologies being discussed are not the end-all-be-all but they’re tools to help us. And we’re supportive of any measure that will assist us in catching criminals.”

Highlighting how police efforts were enhanced by borrowed technology that helped lead to arrests in the killing of Jamal Patterson in December, Hampton said he supported city staff looking into purchasing Ring cameras for neighbors.

“We’d no longer have to call 100 people or canvas a whole block,” he said. “We will know where the shots were fired, what direction the car traveled and, with Ring, we’d know exactly how many homes we need to reach out to for video footage.”

Rivas thinks it’s a good idea for private residents to consider but she isn’t sure if the city should have any involvement.

“I have some reservations and concerns,” Rivas said during Thursday’s community meeting. “But we’ll see what comes from the discussion.”

Rivas also was reluctant to support ShotSpotter, the gunshot-detection system the city approved last year.

So did others in the community, whose feelings about the technology already in use in such cities as Chicago was so strong it resulted in dozens of public comments during City Council meetings.

Similar conversations may be heard Monday when council members are scheduled to consider the approval of automatic license-plate readers at Hampton’s request.

The proposal is interesting to Gordo, who said he does not believe the license plate readers are an invasion of anyone’s privacy.

“They’re focused on the public right of way,” Gordo said, noting the city must do things differently if it hopes to deter those responsible for criminal activity. “And networking these cameras together with ShotSpotter should give our police officers a leg up.”

The mayor added: “We become stronger as a community when we work together,” he said, “and this is an opportunity for all of us to do that.”

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