OPD tests new downtown surveillance system

ORLANDO, Fla. -- There's a new, high-tech way to look for criminals who are hunting for victims in downtown Orlando.

Orlando police Friday night got the final touches on the IRIS camera system, eyes in the sky to protect people downtown.

The system completely changes the landscape of crime fighting downtown.

Orlando police began to test the 13 cameras Friday night in the first phase of what will eventually be 60 new eyes in the sky.

"I've seen a woman get beat up by a man in the street," said Orlando resident Adalis Abraham. "Even homeless people get attacked."

Police said they hope it will be a warning to bad guys, but not everyone likes the idea of big brother watching.

"I think it's an invasion of privacy," resident Abraham Aissan said.

"I think government's a little too nosey," said Altamonte Springs resident Tim Mansell. "What's going on with our freedom?"

Police said they hope the new cameras will let officers know where there's a problem or at least help catch criminals once they strike.

Orlando police officers on light duty can't patrol the street, but they can still help keep them safe.

The officers are being trained to monitor the IRIS system. IRIS stands for Innovative Response to Improve Safety.

"We want everyone to know the cameras are out there and (we're) monitoring them," said Orlando police Captain John O'Grady. "If you do something, you're going to be caught on tape."

The 13 cameras downtown, mainly along Orange Avenue and another dozen along International Drive in the tourist district, will record video -- but not sound -- around the clock.

The initial $1.3 million system can zoom in and out, follow a suspect and even spin 360 degrees.

"I think it would be a great deterrent," said downtown worker Larry Williams. "Put up some signs: This area's being watched."

Officers said the video will show what happens, whether it helps them or hurts them.

"A lot of complaints we may get by the late-night crowds about officer abuse, etc. -- it's going to be on video," O'Grady said.

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