Greensboro puts security cameras on city buildings, in buses

Jan. 10--GREENSBORO -- With hundreds of carefully placed security cameras, Greensboro is watching you all across the city.

In 2008, officials beefed up security by placing more surveillance cameras in buses and government buildings to prevent crime and catch offenders.

Surveillance cameras in the city's four parking decks on Bellemeade, Church, Davie and Greene streets capture nearly every move.

But that's a good thing, right?

In 1997, a man was shot in the Davie Street parking deck. The 41 surveillance cameras inside the deck recorded very little, so they didn't provide police with much help.

In subsequent checks, police learned:

--Four cameras didn't work or worked partially;

--The outdated lighting system made nighttime photography poor;

--The cameras didn't pan; and

--The cameras began to tape only when a security guard saw fit.

That same year, Robin Davenport became the city's parking operations manager. She said major improvements have been made to the security system, which has about 200 cameras.

Some of the cameras pan; lighting was upgraded to improve footage quality, and motion-sensitive cameras record all day.

Now, police find footage from the camera decks useful, Davenport said.

Police Cpl. K.B. Johnson has worked in the Center City Division for nearly five years. He has used cameras to solve cases involving fraud, suicide and theft.

"It's always a help," Johnson said of the cameras. "Anything extra is a help."

He said camera footage from the Bellemeade Street parking deck served as the proof that a fight had occurred.

Two military officers got drunk, beat up a man in the parking deck and later denied it, Johnson said.

"Without the cameras, it would have been their word against the others' word," Johnson said.

"And the cameras kind of solidified that what (the witnesses) were saying was true."

Michael Speedling is a former federal agent the city hired as its security manager. Speedling is in charge of safeguarding municipal buildings, including City Hall and branch libraries.

He said more security cameras have been installed in 2008 than in previous years.

"A lot of camera systems were dated and needed maintenance, and it was time," he said.

Speedling said security has become tighter since his hiring more than a year ago. The security team is working on new camera surveillance systems as a "matter of routine," he said.

"We're now working on better capabilities of monitoring real time," he said. "It's an ongoing process that we'll probably never stop now."

The team also has added more doors and card readers and made security guard training more rigorous.

Concerns about public safety arose after Juan Estevan Salado, an armored car security guard, was shot and killed Dec. 15 at the Old Navy store at the Friendly Center.

The center's parking lot does not have surveillance cameras, so the gunman and the getaway car were not captured leaving the parking lot after the shooting.

"That is a horrible situation," Speedling said of the shooting. "And it highlights the reason why we're working harder to increase our security."

Speedling declined to specify security routines but said security officers monitor various buildings at various times.

Speedling said he is trying to find a balance between providing a safe environment and disrupting normal activity. "How much security is enough and how much ... impedes the citizens' ability to do business in these facilities?"

Copyright (c) 2009, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.