Let's Think Wireless designed and implemented a high-speed wireless network for the City of Newark police department. The network includes 100+ cameras deployed throughout the city that are proving extremely effective in deterring crime. The network was recently featured in the New Jersey Star Ledger.
Click here to read more about the wireless network and security cameras that Let's Think Wireless is installing throughout Newark [PDF].
Monday, May 26, 2008
BY ALI WINSTON
|Photos by Joe Epstein, The Star Ledger|
|Rick Turcios of Let's Think Wireless installs a digital camera on a traffic signal in Newark. Also being mounted on lamp posts and private and public buildings, the cameras wirelessly stream motion-picture-quality footage to the police department's Washington Street Communications center, below, where civilian clerks and a supervising officer monitor the images on numerous screens. Clerks can take control of individual cameras to adjust their focus and field of vision.|
Eight months later, the Newark Police Department is operating 44 new cameras in a 7-square-mile area encompassing all five wards, where 80 percent of gun violence has occurred in the past three years, according to police and city officials.
Police officials that say by the end of summer, the remaining cameras will be installed within the same area. Also coming is a gunshot-detection system that will complement the video monitoring and pinpoint the location of gunfire.
Once all cameras are in place, it will bring the total number operat ing in the city to 119. "It's part of the evolution of technology and policing," said Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy. The digital cameras, mounted on lamp posts, above intersections and on private and public buildings, wirelessly stream motion-picture-quality footage to the police department's Washington Street communications center.
Civilian clerks and a supervising officer monitor the images on an oversized screen. Clerks can take control of individual cameras to adjust their focus and field of vision. Footage is stored up to 30 days. "One of the first things we do when something happens is check whether it was caught on camera," McCarthy said, adding that video monitors have improved response time for patrol units.
But not all surveillance experts agree that video cameras help reduce crime.
James Byrne, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, said he be lieves video surveillance is ineffective and diverts resources from proven crime-reduction methods. "They cost a lot more than they deliver, and the science of it does not suggest that they're going to have an impact on crime," said Byrne. "You're taking money and putting it into hard technology that you might have used to hire more police or community liaisons."
In London, where a video net work created in the 1990s now includes more than 10,000 cameras, police officials recently stated the system has not delivered a significant impact on crime.
One study showed that instead of deterring crime, cameras appear to displace it. A preliminary analysis of the San Francisco Police Department's blue-light cameras near the University of California-Berkeley found a decrease in homicides within 250 feet of the cameras was offset by a spike in homicides outside the camera's range.
McCarthy acknowledges the lack of a preventive effect but says that is not necessarily bad. "It's not going to deter it, it's only going to move it -- which can be good, because you might want to move it to a location where you can suppress it easier," McCarthy said.
Since the beginning of the year, Newark has seen a drop in homicides and a reduction in gun violence. The cameras, he said, are part of the department's overall strategy and cannot be separated from other initiatives, such as the narcotics squad and the fugitive- apprehension unit.
"It's not one thing we do, it's everything we do," McCarthy said.
THE RESULTS SO FAR
The Video Surveillance Unit de tected 289 criminal incidents via live monitoring, according to police figures for the first quarter of 2008. The unit also monitored 799 incidents that were either called in to 911 or officers on patrol. Investigators pulled footage for 24 past incidents. In total, 26 arrests were made based on live or recorded video evidence.
When Mayor Cory Booker took office in 2006, the city had nine cameras, including units on top of Prudential's downtown office tower and the North Ward's Stephen Crane Houses. But city officials said the cameras were not active. They have since been upgraded and integrated into the system. In early 2007, the city began building a network of 60 cameras, funded with $1.4 million from the city's urban-enterprise zone. Most of the cameras are located in the central business district and along commercial arteries.
But the killing last August of three college students behind Mount Vernon School made the project a top priority: Two broken video cameras owned by the school system overlooked the schoolyard where Terrance Aeriel, Dashon Harvey and Iofemi Hightower were killed.
The Newark Community Foundation pledged $3.2 million to add more cameras to Newark's net work. The city is spending $1.5 million for cameras. Another $500,000 will be used to bolster the wireless system. The remaining $1.2 million will fund Shotspotter Inc.'s gunshot-detection system.
Prosecutors said they hope video evidence will improve the quality of their criminal cases. "It brings the scene alive for the jury and makes for a more compelling presentation -- it's way better than standing up there with a bulletin board," said Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow, whose office has used video evidence from private and public cameras since the mid-1990s.
Dow said cameras also can help identify suspects, something that helps thwart Essex County's pervasive witness-intimidation problem. Her office has received 12 cases from Newark with video from police cameras, though none has gone to trial.
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