New cameras help cops keep extra eye on crime

February 25, 2011 5:20:39 PM PST
Extra tools to fight crime on Houston's west side are in the hands of law enforcement. Police officers have five new security cameras to help them watch one busy area. The thing about this program is it's privately funded. Residents can purchase cameras for the community and have them monitored by HPD.

They're not visible unless you are looking for them -- new security cameras, monitored by HPD from a remote site.

West Houston resident Daniel Crawford said, "I think it will be a good deterrent."

Crawford wishes cameras would have been installed a couple of blocks away where his truck was broken into.

He said, "None of the residents saw, my alarm didn't go off, so I'm just stuck right there with the bill."

Five of these cameras are monitoring the busy Brairforest and Wilcrest area.

One resident said, "I feel it's very good."

"I just think it's kind of like an invasion of privacy," said resident Doran Davis. "I mean, I'm kind of evenly split."

It's a privately funded pilot program. The cameras and hardware, worth about $100,000, were donated by local security company Ironsky. They're monitored from HPD's west side command center.

HPD Lt. Barber said, "We believe the cameras will be an extra set of eyes for us out there in the community."

By clicking an icon on a map, an officer can pull the cameras up. HPD decides where the cameras go -- usually in high crime areas and in public places where not much privacy is expected. While they're not continuously monitored, they're always recorded.

"It will help us to monitor any live situations that we come aware of and also should crime occur, our investigative divisions could use that video," Lt. Barber said.

The Houston Police Department hopes it catches on and more private donations pour in for more cameras, for times that a patrol unit is not cruising through.

Crawford said, "Police are not always around, you know. So if we can actually have someone that is actually going to be there to monitor and help us prevent that, that's going to be great."

If you're wondering how to get one in your neighborhood, fill out an application with the City of Houston. Then a division commander performs a crime analysis to decide if cameras in the requested location would help deter crime.