Toledo Police Sgt. S.D. Sterling operates one of the city's new surveillance cameras in a demonstration during Thursday's press conference at the Toledo Safety Building.
From the third floor of the downtown Safety Building, Toledo police officers can watch what is happening, in real time, at various locations across the city.
The real-time crime center and “sky cop” program, named the Orion Project — Observation Research Intelligence Operation Network — was unveiled Thursday afternoon and included more than a dozen scenes of moving traffic and an eye on a carry-out store on display.
To date, 40 cameras in 20 locations have been installed in areas identified by police as high-crime spots. Two of the locations are in the downtown Toledo “entertainment district,” outside the Huntington Center and Fifth Third Field, which are not high-crime areas, but destinations for visitors.
Locations were identified by analyzing crime data to determine what parts of the city experience the most crime, police have said.
Chief Derrick Diggs said he anticipates having 150 to 160 cameras installed throughout the city, including two mobile cameras, once the $1.6 million project is completed.
“We have made a major commitment in the area of video surveillance,” Chief Diggs said, saying the crime surveillance center is part of his “bold and ambitious” plan for the department.
The cameras can zoom in 36 times and rotate 360 degrees. Each location has two cameras that allow officers monitoring the system to keep one trained on a group — should a fight break out — and move the other camera to follow anyone who might flee, Capt. Mike Troendle said.
The department has cameras in stock with the ability to detect gunshots, but those have not been installed yet, Captain Troendle said.
No major incidents — except for “minor fights” and someone, apparently not a fan of the program, extending a single-finger gesture to a camera — have been caught on surveillance.
The center is currently staffed at various times of the day by sworn officers, although the department eventually may hire civilians to monitor the cameras 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The cameras can be monitored by some on iPads and cell phones, as Captain Troendle demonstrated — a downloadable application, he said, was not available. Eventually, officers on street patrol might be able to watch the cameras from their police vehicles.
Video recorded by the cameras will be maintained for at least 14 days before it is recorded over; video that may be used as evidence will be kept as long as possible.
Councilman D. Michael Collins said that, when he was a Toledo officer, the crime surveillance system was “a dream.”
“This can be a very beneficial tool,” he said. “Notice I use the word, ‘tool.' This is in no way, shape, or form a substitute … for police who are on the street.”
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