nyc mesh

Aakash Patel, a volunteer for NYC Mesh. “I am archiving NYC traffic camera footage with help from the NYC Mesh community to make it easier for the public to identify police misconduct,” the Indian American said. (LinkedIn photo)

A New York-based internet collective is using its technology to capture images from traffic camera feeds around the city in the hopes of documenting new incidences of police brutality.

The project was initiated by NYC Mesh, which offers low-cost internet access through a community-maintained mesh network, and will use a custom computer program that capture images from traffic camera everyone to 30 seconds, according to a June 10 company blog post penned by Aakash Patel, a volunteer for the organization.

“Holding the police accountable requires witnessing, recording and sharing footage of their actions,” the Indian American began the post, adding that the venture was inspired by Darnella Frazier, whose recording of George Floyd’s murder sparked a global movement.

“I am archiving NYC traffic camera footage with help from the NYC Mesh community to make it easier for the public to identify police misconduct,” he said.

Those images will be collected every day in a public Google Drive meant to be a resource for people who might have been attacked by a police officer without anyone nearby filming documenting the assault, the blog said.

“We’ve watched as CNN journalists captured their own arrest on camera,” Patel wrote. “We’ve seen military-grade weapons used against peaceful protestors thanks to the hundreds of people who filmed the June 1 Lafayette Square rally,” Patel added.

“The video of Martin Gugino getting pushed by police in Buffalo has been viewed more than 82 million times on Twitter, at the time of writing,” he said.

According to Patel in his blog, these high-profile acts of police violence lead the group to think about how many more police attacks go unobserved because of a lack of evidence to support the victim's claims.

Traffic cameras were the most obvious option to create a public check on police brutality, in part because live feeds from the cameras are available online 24 hours a day all across New York, it said.

However, the archives from those traffic camera streams is closely guarded by the Department of Transportation, meaning a person would have to be watching every stream in the city simultaneously to catch any possible incidences of violence on their own, it added.

Instead, NYC Mesh's program automatically captures an image from each traffic camera feed throughout the day and allows people to search through the public archive without having to deal with the Department of Transportation.  

According to Patel, the system currently pulls more than 200GB of data a day, and NYC Mesh is negotiating with the Department of Transportation for access to cameras in Queens, Bronx and Staten Island.

Though the project is picking up steam, Patel says they still need help from the public “to make the archive a more useful public resource,” as well as help from the DOT.

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