Local News

Durham Debuts New Video Monitoring System

Posted October 19, 2007 8:52 a.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2007 7:30 p.m. EDT

— Durham police have a new way to keep an eye on crime in the Bull City.

Thirteen wireless surveillance cameras, enclosed in bulletproof casings, have been placed 25 feet above the ground in a two-mile radius in northeast Central Durham – the first location for such cameras in the state.

Police will try them for six months to determine whether they help crime prevention and investigation. After the trial, police will decide whether to expand the $125,000 program, which is funded by the police department's Assets Forfeitures Fund.

"What these cameras hopefully will do, will be able to complement police presence where police cannot be," Durham Mayor Bill Bell said.

The pilot program is modeled on one in Chicago, where police have seen as much as a 60 percent decrease in drug activity.

Police admit the cameras might displace crime to other locations, but note that the cameras can easily be moved from corner to corner if patterns change.

Officers will carry portable monitors that allow them to zoom, pan and tilt to follow any activity. Cruisers' mobile computers will be linked to the cameras.

There will also be stationary monitors at the District 1 substation, police headquarters and the city's 911 center.

Critics in cities where similar cameras are already in place have raised concerns about the cameras violating a person's privacy.

Deputy Chief Ron Hodge insists the cameras, which do not include audio, do not.

"To monitor what's going in a public place – you have the right to do that, and I have a right to do that," he said.

Business owners, such as Samuel Jenkins, who owns a barbershop in the area that is being monitored, said he doesn't mind the cameras.

"It has made so many people feel safe," he said, adding that other businesses have asked why the cameras are not on more streets.

"Nobody wants crime," Jenkins said.

Police say that's the point.