Detroit's Crime-Fighting Surveillance Program Expands

Project Green Light links together private cameras and feeds directly to a real-time crime center at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.

by Joe Guillen, Detroit Free Press / May 24, 2016

(TNS) -- Nearly a dozen McDonald’s fast-food restaurants across Detroit are joining a list of businesses equipped with enhanced lighting and high-resolution video cameras as part of a crime-fighting strategy called Project Green Light.

Already, four McDonald’s restaurants have Project Green Light equipment that feeds directly to a real-time crime center at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters. That number will swell to 11 in the coming weeks, city officials said today.

Project Green Light now has 26 businesses hooked up with security equipment, including gas stations, liquor stores and restaurants.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Police Chief James Craig started the program in January at eight gas stations to help improve public safety in neighborhoods. They said statistics showed one-quarter of the city’s violent crime happened within 500 feet of gas stations after 10 p.m.

“I absolutely believe Project Green Light is making criminals think twice before committing a crime at a gas station,” Duggan said today in a statement. “Soon, they’ll think twice about doing it at a McDonald’s or any other Green Light business. We are going to continue to move this program across the city and create an expectation of safety.”

The crime center at Detroit's public safety headquarters runs 24 hours, seven days a week. It is divided into two sections, one each for the east and west sides. Typically, a civilian crime analyst and an officer are assigned to each section.

Multiple screens are visible, including a console with camera footage from businesses involved in Project Green Light. If one of the partnering businesses calls 911, police inside the crime center are alerted and they can focus on footage at that location.

Police also use the Green Light footage to accumulate information about what's going on at Green Light businesses even when there isn't an emergency, Sgt. Michael Woody said. For example, if a gas station owner tells police he is having a problem with drug sales at certain times, police will study footage to look for patterns, suspicious people or suspicious vehicles, Woody said.

Businesses pay for the service; costs vary.

The program has paid off, officials said.

Police arrested a suspect and recovered a gun last week with help from video surveillance at a Green Light gas station at East 7 Mile and Hoover.

Earlier this year, a woman who could be seen shooting at two people at a gas station in the program was arrested.

The president of the Detroit Black McDonald’s Operators Association, Savarior Service, said the group’s members want to take care of their customers and workers. Service said the technology will create a safer environment for both.

The McDonald's at Grand River and Lahser already has seen a decrease in loitering since joining the program a couple of months ago.

“Obviously, doing business in Detroit, as a restaurant business taking in cash, it has its challenges," Service said. "Sometimes our establishments will attract certain traffic.”

Service said she looks forward to all of the chain's Detroit locations participating in Project Green Light so it becomes common knowledge that McDonald's restaurants in the city are being watched by police.

“We are setting a goal for all of our members to be online with Project Green Light by the end of this year,” Service said.

Detroit has witnessed a string of shootings during the weekends recently, including 17 on Mother's Day weekend that left seven people dead and 14 injured. Three of those killed in recent weeks by gunfire have been children.

©2016 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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