Camden County Police are watching, over a hundred cameras blanket the city of Camden, New Jersey.
In the short amount of time between 2013 and 2015 there has been a significant drop in the crime rate throughout the city of Camden, New Jersey. Many attribute the drop to the change in the police force, but as time continues technological advances are also changing how the city operates and conducts issues of crime and safety
The RT-TOIC system, or eye in the sky, has developed to become a task force of virtual officers, so to speak. The Interactive Resource Management Center seats roughly seven officers at one time who monitor and control six to nine screens within the sector they monitor. These officers will sit for 12 hour shifts, using up to 125 cameras throughout the city.
The city does intend to add 100 more cameras throughout the city Camden according to coordinator Heaven Hemwood.
Hemwood explains that “the focus is to be proactive”, trying to prevent crime or control crime in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
The cameras provide a way for police officers on the street to respond correctly and with the ultimate amount of information in order to protect themselves and civilians. It also gives ideal and specific information on what the officer did or did not see explained Hemwood.
When an officer from the RT-TOIC reports to an officer on the street they will immediately send footage or information directly to the officer’s patrol car. So now they can review the footage, like an instant replay.
For example, an officer is monitoring the street outside of the Walter Rand Transportation Canter on Broadway. The officer sees through the cameras that a drug deal is in process, he will then alert an officer assigned to that section and provide him with description of who sold the drugs, who bought them, and whatever else is needed. The monitoring officer will send footage to the o patrol car as well. The monitor wants to provide the street officer with as much knowledge as possible in order to expedite the situation.
Street officers also have full control through the patrol cars computer to see the cameras in his immediate area, and can virtually patrol the areas that he or she is assigned to by not specifically on at that time.
According to Sergeant Peter Rogers the RT-TOIC system has created new case law, since the cameras can see anyone live, they can report and archive information to use in the court of law.
“Each camera stays on a specific spot for one to two minutes tops”, says Hemwood. The idea is to make a virtual perimeter around the city of Camden. When asked how precisely the cameras worked, Sergeant Rogers responded “we put someone in a patrol car smoking a cigarette from a block away. From there we were able to zoom in and see exactly what cigarette that person was smoking.” This test showed just how precise and accurate the cameras work.
Sergeant Darrell Henderson then explained the shot spotter technology that is also utilized at Camden City Police Station. The shot spotter is a system that records gunshot sounds. The shot spotter records how many rounds were shot off and where gun shots are believed to have come from. The shot spotters are placed strategically in zones that divide the city but are not placed with cameras. The two systems work separately but are monitored in the same control center.
Recently added to the control center is iCan. iCan is a system that residents can anonymously sign up to use. When applying if a resident is granted access, by passing background checks, they will be able to log any suspicious activity and report on the street they live on. The resident will be able to see still vision snapshot pictures of the street view. If a resident reports anything a camera will automatically rearrange its direction to the area to try to catch the activity reported on. So far 70 plus residents/ groups has signed up for iCan.
Camden is continuing to grow, and is making strides with technology to make the city a safer place, the RT-TOIC, shot spotter, and iCan have collectively made a difference.