July 5, 2007 By Creighton Welch
Less Downtown Danger
With the installation complete, the Police Department was ready to check out the views of downtown through its 40 cameras. Through the nodes and transfers, the video is sent to locations at the Dallas City Hall and Police Headquarters. There, it is monitored 24 hours a day by both retired and current police officers.
Officers monitoring the action can move most of the Sony cameras to different angles and directions. The cameras, also employed to act as investigative tools in instances where a crime does happen, can zoom in on smaller objects, or even a license plate as far as 300 yards away. They can capture footage in the dark as well.
The downtown area was picked because of its high population density and crime rate. The Police Department said the main crime problems include thefts, fights and robberies, partially stemming from the homeless population and the crowds from nightclubs and bars.
If the monitors catch a crime in progress, they immediately dispatch an officer to the scene. The footage, which can also serve as evidence when a crime happens, is only kept for two weeks.
"People are happy about us having more cameras," said Police Department spokeswoman Cpl. Jamie Matthews. "It lets officers be out on patrol in other places at the same time. It's just another law enforcement technique."
Dallas Police say the system is not meant to spy on people or intrude on citizens' privacy. The cameras adhere to all applicable laws and are clearly visible. There are also signs and labels pointing to the cameras.
"The wireless camera system will dramatically improve our ability to monitor this area of the city," said deputy chief Lawrence, "and we can now provide our officers with critical, real-time information they can use to protect the public and themselves whenever an incident is detected."
With the success beginning to show in reduced crime rates, the Police Department has begun working with BearCom to look at new areas for expansion.
"The city is looking at several different areas to move or expand their number of cameras," said BearCom's Huffman. "Of course, it all depends on funding."
The Dallas Police Department set specific goals for installing its cameras, hoping the safer downtown will help the city continue to prosper.
"Our goal is to reduce crime in major downtown areas by 30 percent within the first six months of installing the new video surveillance system," Lawrence said. "The central business district is essential to the economic success of our city."
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