Atlanta council votes to spend $2 million for video cameras

More than 100 additional cameras, most of them aimed at curbing crime in and around downtown Atlanta, will go online soon, after the Atlanta City Council voted Monday to spend $2.25 million to beef up surveillance throughout the city.

The cameras are part of an effort to address a crime problem that could threaten Atlanta’s tourism and business growth, while intimidating students who attend college downtown. Students have been victims of countless robberies, burglaries and assaults.

But by most accounts, crime is down. At its current pace, the city will have fewer than 100 homicides for the fourth year in a row, and major felonies are down 5 percent this year and 16 percent since 2009.

Atlanta’s Chief Operating Officer Duriya Farooqui said video surveillance — which has been in place in its current form since last September — for has become a “key part of our crime reduction strategy to provide real time information.”

Once the legislation is signed, contractors will begin installing 92 cameras in Zone 5, the police district that includes Downtown, Midtown, Atlantic Station, the Georgia Dome, Georgia State University and Georgia Tech.

An additional 20 cameras will be installed throughout the city’s remaining five zones and provide real-time information sharing through the city’s Operation Shield Initiative.

With the addition of 112 new camerasm, there are 762 cameras that are being constantly monitored out of the Loudermilk Video Integration Center. The center opened last September in the city’s E911 Center downtown to link communications between Atlanta police and private security forces, along with other government law enforcement agencies.

“Mayor Reed has made public safety his No. 1 priority, and this is the next generation tool for crime fighting in the city of Atlanta,” Farooqui said. “Repeat offenders will not find a haven as easily with a surveillance network covering the city’s dense commercial and residential corridors to keep them crime free and safe for tourists, businesses and residents.”

Funded by grants and supported by the Atlanta Police Foundation, Atlanta’s video integration hopes to replicate what other cities are doing to fight crime.

Before building the facility, Reed and members of the foundation visited industry-leading cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and the worldwide leader, London, to see how their systems worked.

“This money will help us expand the scope of the network, allowing the department to continue its efforts to use technology to detect, prevent and solve crimes and provide a better response to incidents,” said Carlos Campos, a spokesman for APD Chief George Turner.

City officials, including the mayor, are trying to build a network that would eventually include thousands of wireless and fiber optic cameras.

“This will give us more eyes on the streets so police can respond more readily,” said councilman Michael Julian Bond, who chairs the public safety committee. “Having more eyes is a strong deterrent. Criminals don’t want to be seen.”

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