STE Exclusive Roundtable: Keeping Cities Secure with Municipal Surveillance

Tips and insights from five experts in the field


How did you go about building support for the system — how were you able to find funding; and how did you coordinate your efforts with the business and local community?

Morrow: Selling the project was easy. The industry/business around the region were already talking about the establishment of a Port Information System (PIN), and the security project I was proposing fit nicely. I was able to sell the fact that both systems were mutually supportive of one another and had a larger Law Enforcement Nexus — other than the business being able to share information. Based on these factors, we were able to switch the focus of the project from a single-business perspective to that of a Public Safety perspective. In doing so, we were able to solidify federal grants to fund the project.

O’Donnell: Initially on the Police Department side, we were able to fund the project through a combination of money from our budget and narcotics seizures funds. Later, we were able to partner with our Office of Emergency Management and Communications for public and private grants. Our city also allowed for the Aldermen to spend money from their local ward budgets to purchase cameras for their constituents.

Murphy: We were able to get the community behind the system early on through good public relations. We outlined our problem and there was a defined safety concern, specifically in our downtown. So the cameras not only help changed the crime perception, they have also turned around the economic development in the areas that we deploy cameras. We have been very successful in all of our funding requests for both state and federal grants. The bulk of our funding came from state gaming funds in Pennsylvania.

Wardell: Support for the system was strong from the beginning from the business community. The initial funding for the project came from the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID) partnering with the Atlanta Police Foundation and the Atlanta Police who paid for the wireless signal through some existing grant funding. As the project gained notoriety for its mere existence and deterring effect, support from the public (other public agencies) and private sector at all levels continued to grow. The Atlanta Police Foundation packaged the surveillance camera program into a larger comprehensive program called Operation Shield, which included other components known as the COMNET radio system (public private venture for police-private communications), as well as the Atlanta City Worksite (ACWS), which is a Web-based information sharing platform. The Atlanta Downtown Improvement District Board of Directors represents the Business Community, and has the ability to direct where the ADID funding is spent.

Cramer: The Dallas police Department began a test project using video surveillance in 2004, viewing camera feeds from a few buildings in the entertainment district. A non-profit group, “Safer Dallas Better Dallas” (www.saferdallas.com) began a campaign to raise money for the Downtown Camera System in March 2006. The Meadows Foundation funded the first 40 downtown cameras in 2007. Another 50 downtown cameras were funded by Downtown Dallas Inc. and Downtown stakeholders in 2009. The Camera Center is staffed by “less than full duty Police Officers” and Police retirees paid for by a grant from the North Texas Council of Governments. The Police Department had to allocate funds for maintenance as the warranty expired on the downtown cameras. The City issued an RFP for downtown camera maintenance and repair. Staffing at the Camera Center continues to be a challenge. The current budget to staff the Camera Center is approaching $1 million annually. One option being explored is using volunteer camera monitors under the supervision of a sworn Police Officer.

How do you use your video investment so that it is a force multiplier?