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Powerful and secretly deployed police surveillance tools, Part 2

Let's talk the Central Valley city of Fresno for a moment, specifically the so-called Real Time Crime Center that is operative within its police department.

Reportedly, scores of police cameras mount its walls, taking live footage of whatever is going on in locales across the city. Many hundreds of additional camera feeds from traffic and school cameras can be readily accessed, as well.

In addition to employing those surveillance tools, cops can use a tech-assist called ShotSpotter that uses microphones based all over the city to pinpoint the location of a gunshot. They use a program called Media Sonar to troll through websites in search of unlawful activities. They can scan property records, look at social media posts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and scour criminal records.

And following their receipt of all that data, they can avail themselves of proprietary software that provides a color-coded threat score of an individual they are investigating or are about to encounter: green for low risk all the way up to bright red, signifying a significant threat.

We noted these "advanced and secrecy-laden" tools in our immediately preceding blog post, noting in our January 14 entry that many citizens might "understandably react with alarm" to the sheer capability of police departments in California and across the country to spy on Americans through use of such powerful surveillance technology.

Police officials downplay notions of abuse, of course, citing the tremendous help that such tools lend in tracking down terrorists, protecting innocent people and thwarting crime in general.

A recent media article on the highly secretive police technology and its clandestine use notes, though, that notwithstanding their assurances, "the powerful systems also have become flash points for civil libertarians and activists." They widely fear privacy invasion, a weakening of police accountability and an undermining of essential constitutional freedoms posed by police activity that is completely shrouded from public view and, ultimately, any limiting oversight.

Given the employment of such technology in some cities, our readers might reasonably conclude that they are more than just a name to law enforcers. If police suspect them of any crime or are actively investigating them, they might be readily associated with threat-based color coding, as well.

Many people might find that more than just a bit unsettling.

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