More cameras could be key to making Indy safer

A surveillance camera keeps an eye on city of Indianapolis. (WISH Photo/DeAndre Taylor)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – In Jeff Cela’s office sits three miniature boulders. The massive rocks are treated as jewels inside Creative Design, which is a do it all print shop located in Midtown Atlanta, Georgia.

“It’s frustrating and discouraging, you have to pick yourself back up.”

“It’s a testament to our faith,” said Cela, as he looks at the rocky souvenirs.

Three times in a three-month month span, Cela had his faith tested by the rocks after vandals used them to smash the company’s windows. Surveillance video captured images of a five-man crew hustling in and out of the building as they tried to rip out computers from their station.

“It’s frustrating and discouraging. You have to pick yourself back up,” Cela said.

He did pick himself back up, and the building’s owner went one step further. He purchased a new surveillance camera, and placed it on the corner facing the shop. In a gesture that surprised some he donated the $15,000 camera to the Atlanta Police Department (APD) in Georgia.

Now officers have direct accesses to the camera, and since the installation of the equipment there hasn’t been any break-ins at Creative Design.

Donating cameras to APD is a growing trend in Atlanta. Currently the popular city has 6,000 cameras monitored by officers, but the department owns less than 10 percent of those cameras. A whopping 90 percent are owned by the public and private sector. These are businesses, residents and organizations that currently have surveillance equipment protecting their buildings. What the public and private sector has done was allow APD to integrate their cameras with the department’s video feeds.

So here is how it works.

When a 911 call comes into Atlanta dispatch, the four closest cameras to the call instantly pop up in a Video Integration Center. Officers in the center can then monitor the video feeds 24 hours a day, seven days a week using cameras from both the private and public sector.

“Typically businesses already have these cameras, it’s in their own interest to protect their business, so we created a system that we can tap in the system,” said President and CEO of Atlanta Police Foundation Dave Wilkinson.

(WISH Photo/DeAndre Taylor)
(WISH Photo/DeAndre Taylor)

Lenox Mall located in the upscale community of Buckhead integrated its’ surveillance cameras with APD. Simon Property Group owns the popular retail space, and the mall’s management has been pleased with the decision.

“This is more real time information when we are calling PD they immediately can pull up our camera footage, and look and see what is occurring on property,” said Lenox Mall Manager Robin Suggs.

Residents in Atlanta have invested their own dollars in the city’s growing arsenal of surveillance cameras. In one community, residents raised more than $1 million to help stock their neighborhood with cameras monitored by APD.

The Atlanta Police Foundation was created to provide support to the mayor, and the chief of police. Over the years the foundation has formed a public-private partnership that has been used to reduce crime.

Current Indianapolis Police Chief Troy Riggs started a Public Safety Foundation, when he served as Director of Public Safety for Indianapolis.

“Absolutely it can work here.”

24-Hour News 8 asked Riggs if this model of adding surveillance cameras through the public could work here in Indianapolis.

“Absolutely it can work here, especially in our large venue areas where we have people gathering to go to the Colts or Pacers game, or just a big event downtown,” said Riggs.

During our interview, Riggs was adamant that adding more cameras would involve a community discussion to decide what the public wants. In Indianapolis there are just over a 100 cameras in the city. Riggs leans more to video integration when talking about Atlanta’s approach to adding cameras.

“As far as having some type of major integration that hasn’t happened, we need to work on that to see if that is a possibility,” said Riggs.

No effort is underway to add cameras to the city. Right now Riggs is focused on the Indianapolis Real-Time Data Center which will give real time information on crime in the city. The center houses a hub of information like local arrests, police reports, and it can give officers information that can help prevent a crime before it happens.

Police chiefs from around Marion County recently paid a visit to the center located at the Regional Operation Center to discuss how to use the center regionally to address criminal activity.

During their discussions there were no talks of adding more cameras, which some in Atlanta believe has made a positive impact in their city.

“We believe this can be the biggest system in the world,” said Wilkinson.

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