Camden County Metro Division has $4.5 million in surveillance equipment and other technology

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Lt. Pasquale Giannini of the Camden County Police Department’s Metro Division monitors several computers at the Camden Police Department’s new Real Time Tactical Information Center, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (Staff Photo by Calista Condo/ South Jersey Times)

CAMDEN — When Camden Police began bugging the city with gunshot recording microphones in the Whitman Park area, officials realized the challenge ahead was far greater than expected when it was discovered that 30% of the shots fired were not even reported.

“People were so numb to it all that they weren’t calling,” Camden chief Scott Thomson said.

Over the past three years, the Camden Police Department, and now the Camden County Police Subway Division, have amassed an arsenal of technology worth approximately $4.5 million, which currently includes not just microphones, but a network of 120 rotating street cameras, virtual patrols, automatic license plate readers and other measures to increase efficiency.

Inside the County Police Administration Building on Federal Street, a room called the “Real-Time Tactical Information Center” houses a set of 10 42-inch televisions giving a view of each of the cameras in the county. corner, as well as six banks of six computer screens, where police assistants can perform “virtual patrols”, allowing them a near-constant view of the streets of Camden’s most criminal corners.

“It’s a force multiplier for us – it broadens the scope of our coverage,” Thomson said Tuesday, speaking inside the information center. “I can’t imagine how different it would be if we didn’t have some of this technology when there was a 46% loss in the organization a few years ago.”

With the county police’s Metro Division just over halfway to its goal of 401 officers, the chief added he’s excited to see what a comprehensive department can do with the technology it has.

“I don’t know of any other department in the region with all the technology options we have here,” Thomson said. “I’m excited to see the real impact of our technology resources and the boots we have on the pitch.”

Fourteen shots were fired on the 1200 block of Jackson Street at 10:53 p.m. on April 13.

Microphones in the area were able to pick up the sound of gunfire and automatically trigger nearby street cameras to rotate in their direction.

According to Thomson, these cameras allow police aides to “walk” down city streets and see what’s going on in real time, including many of the city’s open-air drug markets.

“I think we’ve only had one incident where one of our cameras was vandalized – it was drug dealers,” the chief said. “In response, we took a command post and parked it at their location for two months.

“Eventually they did the math and decided it was better to live with the risk of the cameras.”

These same cameras are capable of taking pictures of license plates on vehicles suspected of being used in the sale of drugs.

Additionally, all Camden County patrol cars are equipped with cameras that automatically take pictures of every license plate they pass on the road and can cross-check each with the department’s offender database.

Other monitors within the information center track officers in the field (12 patrol units as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, all responding to a call, plus 10 detectives), average call response time (three minutes) and the average time spent on each call (34 minutes).

According to Thomson, the department is now developing a plan to work with select block captains and community leaders, giving them access to street camera views in their own homes.

Residents – selected by the department – could view a panorama of a specific intersection in their neighborhood and alert police to any problems they see.

“We hope it will start in June,” Thomson said. “It will allow them to click directly on the screen on what they see and alert us to what is happening.

“This will allow people to become even more involved in the public safety of their neighborhood.”

Contact Jason Laday at 856-686-3628 or [email protected]

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