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LAPD Pioneers High-Tech Crime-Fighting ‘War Room’

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The LAPD is fighting crime from a high-tech war room that gives it eyes all over the city. The surveillance hub is now a model for police forces around the world and KCAL9 got an exclusive tour inside from Chief Charlie Beck.

“We are targets on our own soil,” says Beck. “We have to be ready.”

What began as a grass roots idea following the 9/11 terrorist attacks is now a state-of-the-art real-time analysis critical response center. It’s called RACR, and it’s located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.

“This is a system that cuts through the red tape, that gets information to the people that need it,” says Chief Beck. He calls it “the brains of the department, twenty-four/seven.”

Police in the activity center monitor live feeds of city and traffic cameras, counter-terrorism information, and real-time crime mapping, with cutting edge software.

“If we didn’t have that we would be operating blind,” says Capt. Sean Malinowski, the Commanding Officer at RACR. “Essentially we’re always activated here.”

RACR is a critical crime-fighting tool at the center of every high profile incident in the City of Los Angeles.

“We have some real-time tools that help us analyze crime as it’s happening,” says Malinowski. “And then we feed that information out to the geographic areas and to patrol divisions.”

RACR is relied upon during events like dignitary visits from the Royals and President Obama, as well as the recent Occupy LA showdown and arrests.

“We had eyes on that, both through video cameras that the city owns, and also through video streams that were provided by the actual Occupy LA protesters,” says Malinowski.

Most recently, RACR was invaluable in putting an end to the Hollywood arsons.

Malinowski says RACR plotted each arson fire incident as it happened, creating a three-square-mile geographic hot spot that resulted in the quick arrest of accused fire starter Harry Burkhart.

“At the time he was taken into custody, this area was flooded with sheriffs and with LAPD officers,” says Malinowski. “Based on the fact that we kind of could see his movements in real time.”

RACR was born in a functioning bomb shelter, four stories below the Los Angeles Civic Center.

LAPD Commander Blake Chow remembers a time when tracking crime at RACR was done by hand. “There was very little technology,” says Chow, and RACR had no budget.

Police operated with dry erase boards, personal computers, and simple monitors.

“When we built RACR, there was no template to look at,” says Chow. “There was no police department we could go look at and ask them, ‘how did you build it?’”

Today LAPD’s RACR is the standard operating model for law enforcement agencies worldwide. It’s used as a guidebook on how to protect communities and fight crime.

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