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Atlanta Camera System Growth Is Bad News for Crooks

The cameras are monitored by police in the Real Time Crime Center on a Fusus solution that provides access to each camera to all officers, whether in the crime center or on the MDT in a police car.

Panoramic photo taken on a sidewalk in Atlanta.
Adobe Stock/felix Mizioznikov
In May 2023, Deion Patterson, unhappy with the level of care he was receiving by the Department of Veterans Affairs, pulled out a handgun and began shooting at Atlanta’s Northside Medical Midtown facility when doctors there refused to provide him with an anxiety drug.

Patterson killed one and wounded four people before fleeing. That set off a manhunt and a lockdown for miles around. It seemed the gunman had disappeared until he was seen on camera — one of nearly 19,000 around Atlanta that police monitor to fight crime — stealing a truck at a gas station. The truck was then spotted by another one of the cameras, this one a license plate reader in neighboring Cobb County, which is about 15 miles away from where the shooting took place and shares the camera system with the city police.

Police soon locked down the area and closed in on the suspect, making the arrest.

It was another affirmation of the value of the camera system, Connect Atlanta, which has been in place since a few cameras were first deployed in 2012 and continues to be enhanced as a crime-fighting tool.

“The actual cameras themselves have improved over time,” said Marshall Freeman, deputy chief administrative officer for the Atlanta Police Department, “to where the actual cameras can take apps and programs and cut down on lag time.”

The most significant change in the cameras’ value came after 2018, when a cyber attack hit the police department’s records system, causing the department to “rethink how to use the technology.”

The city now boasts the nearly 19,000 cameras, both multisensory AXIS Q61 Series Network Cameras that allow the ability to look in four different directions at once, as well as the AXIS Q61 PTZ Network Cameras that zoom in on action without taking eyes off the general area.

The cameras are monitored by police in the Real-Time Crime Center on a Fusus solution that provides access to each camera to all officers, whether in the crime center or on the mobile data terminal (MDT) in a police car.

Marshall called Connect Atlanta one of the largest public-private surveillance networks in the country. More than 15,000 of the cameras are community owned and run on Fusus, along with 1,800 cameras owned by the police department. Homeowners or businesses can also own cameras, share the footage and in doing so help grow the network.

Each camera becomes an icon on a map. When an incident occurs in the area of one of the cameras, police can see who has a camera in the vicinity and request footage. The technology — officers can access livestreams, zoom in and out, or look at archived footage whether they're sitting at desk working on a computer or their phones, or on an MDT — has helped enhance the Real Time Crime Center and the city’s crime-fighting ability.

“Having access to these additional resources helps our police department expedite criminal investigations and apprehend offenders more quickly,” said Greg McNiff, vice president of programs for the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management magazine.