Technology and good old-fashioned crime fighting are crossing paths in the newest section of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
8 News NOW Reporter Patrick Walker got an exclusive look at the Technical Operations Section, which is a growing part of Metro Police’s crime-fighting family.
In the real world, law enforcement technology and crime scene investigations don’t usually move as quickly as they do on the hit TV show CSI, but it’s getting closer.
“Technology has opened up doors for all types of organizations and disciplines to be able to have more information and have information in a faster way,” said Lt. Dori Koren, Metro Technical Operations Section. “The idea behind it is we have capabilities all centralized in one location where everyone is focused on fighting crime virtually.”
Lieutenant Dori Koren heads up the year-old technical operations section, which is a subset of the more well-known fusion center.
“The sheriff has made violent crime his top priority, and at the end of the day, because of technology, we have better; more of a chance now to actually prevent some violent crime from ever happening, and at the very minimum, hold those accountable that do commit the violent crime in the valley,” Lt. Koren said.
The technical operations section is staffed around-the-clock with a mix of civilian employees and police officers who keep eyes and ears on the news, social media, along with other online chatter and radio calls. They also watch mobile and fixed surveillance camera controls and monitor gunshot detection software.
“All of these technologies together have offered us an opportunity — an unprecedented opportunity to actually prevent violence from happening, Lt. Koren said.
In one incident while 8 News NOW was getting an inside look, officers were monitoring the video feed from a mobile camera unit when they notice a man acting suspiciously outside of a convenience store.
The man pulled out a gun, loaded a magazine, and racked a round into the chamber before heading into the store. But with the new technology, officers were able to be on the way before a 9-1-1 call was ever placed.
Police arrived almost immediately, spooking the lookout, so the three men appeared to have changed their plans.
One of the men was arrested for illegally concealing a gun. Metro Police call it a win for foiling a potential armed robbery. In another case, technicians monitoring cameras on the strip noticed a man walking on the Strip, pretending like he was shooting people. As officers headed out to find the man, the technical operations section staff saw that the man was holding a cell phone, not a gun.
Technicians passed that information along to the first responders, giving them information that prevented an officer-involved shooting.
When a shooting does happen police say it often doesn’t go unreported. Metro Police have gunshot-detection sensors in several neighborhoods around the valley.
In one case, a single, unreported gunshot tripped the “shot spotter” system, sending police to a house where they found two people who had been bound and sexually assaulted. The censors likely saved their lives.
The section is not just responsible for prevention and improved response. It helps with investigations as well.
When 20-year-old Bailey Short was murdered back in August 2018, leads were thin, and at the time investigators said they didn’t have any idea who the victim was.
“We found her, but we didn’t find any identification; no belongings, nothing that would identify or give us a starting point to conduct the investigation,” said Lt. Ray Spencer with Metro Police Homicide division.
That was the first time homicide detectives used facial recognition software to identify the victim, giving investigators perhaps a 24 hour head-start on trying to track down leads instead of having to wait for the coroner to make an I.D.
The department plans to use the software to identify potential suspects who are caught on camera as well.
It’s another merger of technology and crime-fighting with the virtual world becoming more real. The technical operations section is expanding.
It’s expected to be fully built-out in the coming months.