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LETS: The Covert Video Phone

The Magnum Streaming Video Recording system from LETS transforms a cellphone into an evidence collection tool that can be used undercover and in other law enforcement operations.

December 08, 2016  |  by - Also by this author

Photo: LETS
Photo: LETS

Back in 2006 the San Francisco office of the FBI wanted to replace its wired telephone surveillance systems with new technology. So it turned to an area technology company and LETS (Law Enforcement Technologies) was born. Today, LETS produces a wide range of cellphone-based covert and overt audio and video capture and GPS tracking tools for law enforcement. The latest LETS product is the Magnum Streaming Video Recording System.

The Magnum Streaming Video Recording System runs on dedicated Android smartphones and can be managed by the phone's user through a seemingly innocuous app designed to not draw any suspicion from an undercover investigation subject. It can also be triggered remotely in the field by the cover team or by the unit commander from any location with a cell signal. The stream can be viewed by authorized personnel on phones, tablets, or computers.

Every time a recording is triggered on the Magnum Streaming system it creates a new secure server where the video is recorded and stored. This makes it nearly impossible for unauthorized people to hack into the feed and view, alter, or destroy the evidence. "We built this product from the ground up for law enforcement," says Joe Joyce, VP of sales and marketing for LETS.

The video also has low delay so there is very little loss of potential evidence. Joyce says users of the LETS system can expect the video to have a latency of four to six seconds. "A commercial streaming video system has a 15- to 30-second delay, which makes it impractical for law enforcement operations," Joyce adds.

The Magnum Streaming Video Recording system has numerous applications beyond its use in undercover operations. Joyce says the system is also very useful for sting operations because it has no wires, it can be easily concealed, and it can be triggered remotely. In addition, agencies are using the system to record video statements from witnesses, victims, and suspects; as drop cameras hidden in vehicles and buildings for surveillance; and to capture crime scene information.

Joyce adds that the Magnum Streaming System can be a powerful complement for other evidence capture tools such as in-car and body-worn camera systems, since detectives and undercovers often don't have access to such tools. He gives the example of detectives serving a search warrant and says the Magnum Streaming System can document not only the discovery of evidence but also the condition of the targeted residence when officers arrived and when they left. "This can insulate your agency from claims that you destroyed the subject's house," he says.

According to Joyce, one of the best things about the cellphone-based LETS system is that it does not require any special maintenance or handling. "The number one request the FBI had for us from the beginnings of this company was that they didn't want to have to haul around any additional cases and cables," he says. "With this system, all you have to have is a phone."

Agencies can add LETS capabilities in one of two ways. They can acquire dedicated phones from LETS or LETS will install the software on the agency's existing phones. The pricing model for using LETS tools lets any authorized personnel at the agency use them and is based on how many officers are using the tool at the same time. "This way everybody in the agency has the capability to use the system," Joyce says.

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