Law enforcement officials in Atlanta have a new crime-fighting tool: a video surveillance system that will combine cameras operated by the private sector with city-owned assets.

Police have begun monitoring 100 cameras located in downtown Atlanta from within the city’s new Video Integration Center.  “The eventual goal is to deploy a network involving several thousand cameras,” according to an announcement from the city this week

The city called the Video Integration Center “unique” because of its inclusion of existing private-sector cameras, though a few jurisdictions, such as Ogden, Utah, have put feeds from privately held cameras in their real-time crime monitoring centers to augment city-owned equipment.

The Video Integration Center, manned by two sergeants and six sworn officers in the city’s existing E911 Center, is utilizing analytical software to track suspicious behavior and will be closely linked to the E911 Center, officials said, in order to efficiently dispatch law enforcement to incidents.

“Public safety has been a top priority for my administration, and the Video Integration Center is a vital investment towards a safer city,” said Mayor Kasim Reed in a statement released Monday, Sept. 19. “We must continue to seek innovative ways to fight crime, and bringing together the public and private sectors allow us to share in the responsibility of keeping our streets safe for residents, workers, tourists and visitors alike.”

Atlanta’s video surveillance system is part of Operation Shield, a partnership between the Atlanta Police Department and its foundation to link communications among the area’s public- and private-sector public safety entities.

The video surveillance project has cost more than $1 million so far, according to the city’s announcement. Funding has come from the city, private donations and the Atlanta Police Foundation.

Privacy advocates have cried foul that the city’s surveillance system conceivably could extend across the entire city with the inclusion of cameras maintained by private businesses.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that talks are under way to link cameras at private properties such as CNN Center into the system. It’s currently free for a business or neighborhood to link its cameras in the Video Integration Center, though the newspaper reported a fee for doing so will someday be added.