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Crime cameras to be placed in Toledo this spring

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa

 

April 3, 2012: Toledo City Council gave the green light to a police department initiative to install 150 crime surveillance cameras across the city.

 

Police Chief Derrick Diggs told city council members at a hearing last week that the first cameras should appear at central city intersections and be operational sometime in May. The police chief also expects a so-called “real-time crime center” to be installed and working by then.

 

“We’re trying to work as quick as we can,” said Chief Diggs.

 

Four patrol officers assigned to the crime intelligence unit will be assigned to monitor the system. That prompted a tense line of questioning from Councilman Mike Collins during the hearing about staffing, as it relates to the system. The crime cameras will only have live monitoring eight to ten hours each day Monday through Friday. There won’t be any monitoring on weekends.

 

“Believe me, I’m not opposed to the project itself, but I’m also wondering, from an investment standpoint,” said Collins. “Wouldn’t it be more prudent to go with phase one and then evaluate our position because of the manpower? Most of the violent crimes are not committed between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. and we will have no one in that ‘crime center’ for the hours when we have the largest number of calls for service and the violence we have seen erupt.”

 

A $700,000 appropriation from the city’s capital improvement budget sparked a heated debate among city council members. While many called the crime camera system a worthwhile investment, Councilman Collins proposed withholding the money for six months to ensure the police department tried a smaller system first. His suggestion was defeated.

 

Chief Diggs explained the ‘real-time crime center’ was never intended to be staffed 24 hours per day because of police manpower issues. The cameras do have 24-hour recording capability, he said, explaining some of the cameras can be monitored by on-duty officers from the downtown and Scott Park district police stations.

 

“I’m being futuristic here, but the technology is there,” Chief Diggs said. “If there is a certain location, based on based on prioritization and based on serious crime that we need to have watched 24 hours a day, one or two, three or four cameras, we can get the feed from that camera to a certain district station and a certain desk officer to make sure he watches that camera.” 

 

The capital improvement funds will be joined with approximately $800,000 from the police department’s Law Enforcement Trust Fund and a $90,000 homeland security grant to pay for the project. The total cost of the system is $1.6 million.

 

 

Chief Diggs explained the real-time crime center will serve as a nerve center to the data-driven policing model the department has implemented. The crime intelligence unit, in addition to monitoring cameras, will gather crime reports, gather intelligence, and do data analysis to support officers on patrol.

 

“If something happens out there of an investigative nature that we need, they can go into the real-time crime center, bring up the tapes, and do the things we need to do,” said the police chief.

 

A motivating factor in obtaining a crime camera system is the city’s current police force staffing problems, which has one of the lowest officer-to-resident ratios in the country. But Councilman Collins suggested that same manpower issue would present problems in monitoring the cameras.

 

“I don’t want to put a Cadillac into the system and use it like a Ford,” said Collins. “That’s my concern with it.”

 

“Summer is coming and I’d like to get as many of these cameras up in our community as we possibly can to help me assist with the violent crime in our community,” said the police chief.

 

Cameras will be placed according to crime analysis data. Surveillance operations can be conducted at various times and locations, based on crime “hot spots” that develop over time. The cameras are meant to be as much a crime-fighting instrument as a deterrent.

 

“Hypothetically speaking, that’s 150 locations that we’re going to be able to watch and be able to check out that we probably can’t do with our regular patrol units,” said Chief Diggs.

 

Many city council members have stated their support of the project because the idea makes people in their district neighborhoods feel safer.

 

But Councilman Adam Martínez tried to take the crime camera system and the manpower issue to form a broader view of the situation. He asked whether it was time to talk to other agencies—the 911 center and Lucas County Sheriff’s Office in particular—about the possibility of combining into a metropolitan police force.

 

“I get that the system is recording 24-7, but I’m concerned about the response time. Getting people to where they need to be to help people in jeopardy is the bigger issue,” said Councilman Martínez.

 

The police chief stated he would remain flexible about staffing the ‘real-time crime center’ in the future as events warrant. But he emphasized patience would be needed as the new system is brought on-line.

 

“This is something new, this is cutting-edge. We’ve never done this before,” said Chief Diggs. “We’ll be one of the few police departments to even do this. This is something we’ve got to learn as we go along the way. When you’re 250 officers short, you have to provide everything you can for the ones you do have to help solve crime and protect the citizens of this community.”

 

Certain cameras will be equipped with a gunshot detection system, audio-based technology that will alert communication officers right away. Chief Diggs told city council that system will trigger an automatic response from patrol officers right away. Placement of that technology also will be based on crime analysis data. But a mobile unit can be placed in areas where shootings become problematic.

 

The crime cameras also can be routed to Toledo police cars and monitored by officers on mobile data terminals they already use to write reports, obtain information during a traffic stop, and other duties.

        

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04/03/12 12:58:42 -0700.

 

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