Atlanta mayor, police tout success of new surveillance network

Interim Chief Darin Schierbaum (left) urged more residents and business owners to register their surveillance cameras with the city in an effort to solve and deter crime. 
(Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Interim Chief Darin Schierbaum (left) urged more residents and business owners to register their surveillance cameras with the city in an effort to solve and deter crime. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Atlanta officials on Tuesday credited a citywide camera network with helping solve recent cases including the killing of a 72-year-old cab driver and a harrowing midday shootout outside a grocery store.

The city’s new camera integration system also helped officers locate a woman with Alzheimer’s last month when she wandered away from home and boarded a MARTA bus, officials said.

But Mayor Andre Dickens and interim police Chief Darin Schierbaum are asking more residents and business owners to register their surveillance systems with the city, hopeful that Atlanta’s camera network will help solve and deter crime.

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The surveillance network allows police to access and share certain camera feeds in real time. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The surveillance network allows police to access and share certain camera feeds in real time.  
(Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
The surveillance network allows police to access and share certain camera feeds in real time. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Schierbaum called the program the “neighborhood watch of the 21st Century” and Dickens touted the network as a way residents and business owners can come together to “collectively keep our streets safe.”

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Last fall, the department partnered with Peachtree Corners-based tech company Fusus to develop Connect Atlanta, a software that allows police to access and share certain camera feeds in real time. Officers can view footage from their laptops and cellphones while driving to a scene and quickly relay information to other agencies and the public.

Atlanta’s businesses and homeowners can register their cameras with the department for free. For a fee, businesses can also integrate their surveillance systems, giving police immediate access to their recordings if something happens, said Maj. Michael O’Connor.

The program uses Google Maps to show officers where a crime occurs and how many nearby cameras may have recorded the incident. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 3,200 people had registered their cameras and nearly 5,800 had integrated their systems into the city’s network.

On May 14, investigators used a combination of city-owned and private cameras to piece together what happened during a shootout just outside a small northwest Atlanta grocery store, authorities said.

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The footage appeared to show at least three people open fire on a man standing across the street as a woman caught in the crossfire scrambled to grab her baby from an SUV. Nobody was injured. One man has been arrested in the case and police have obtained arrest warrants for two others, O’Connor said. One of the suspects involved in the shooting was wearing an ankle monitor at the time, surveillance footage showed.

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Had it not been for the cameras, police wouldn’t have been able to determine what happened or identify any of the people involved.

“We wouldn’t really have a clue about what happened because nobody stayed on scene. They were all gone,” O’Connor said. “The video cameras made it possible to identify everybody.”

Those charged are known gang members with lengthy criminal histories, authorities said.

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Maj. Michael O'Connor said surveillance footage helped police piece together a midday shootout last month outside a northwest Atlanta grocery store. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Maj. Michael O'Connor said surveillance footage helped police piece together a midday shootout last month outside a northwest Atlanta grocery store. 
(Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
Maj. Michael O'Connor said surveillance footage helped police piece together a midday shootout last month outside a northwest Atlanta grocery store. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

In the case of the missing woman, Atlanta police were able to share video of her getting on the bus with MARTA officers. She was located within hours and reunited with her family.

“Our technology is being used to solve crimes and assist the most vulnerable citizens that we have in Atlanta,” Schierbaum said.

He said the new system can help his officers identify car thieves and “porch pirates” or even track down murder suspects.

“That allows us to identify perpetrators quickly and get them in custody before they can harm again,” Schierbaum said.

Those wishing to register or integrate their surveillance cameras can do so at connectatlanta.org.