Cameras scan, but no one sees - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cameras scan, but no one sees

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  Albany's downtown camera surveillance system is on the job, but some people are shocked to learn that most of the time no one is watching.

Fifteen cameras keep an eye on activity downtown 24-hours a day, but unless a major event is going one, no one watches the monitors, and money of course is the top reason.

Police and city leaders decided when they bought the system that it would not be manned constantly. The cameras do record all the time, so police will have good surveillance of whatever happens.

But some people question whether that is the best use of their tax buck.  George Dozier of Lee County thinks surveillance cameras recording downtown Albany are a good crime fighting tool, but he would be more comfortable if someone were monitoring them.

But they say like they are, if you got stabbed they'll be able to tell who it is. Dozier said "Yea, later, when somebody does look at it."

At Turtle Park, Henrietta Brown and Becky Woods also say they wish someone kept an eye on what the cameras record.

 "I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to have it. It would help to have somebody watching it, I think," Woods said.

"It's not a bad idea," Brown said. "I think Albany could certainly benefit from anything that would make it's residents feel safe."

There are 15 cameras recording the downtown area 24 hours a day. The cameras give an outstanding picture, can zoom in and be pinpointed by hand, if anyone at the 9-1-1 center is watching. But city and Police officials decided the money to hire three people to watch could be better spent.

"Sixty, seventy thousand dollars a year. Now, if the need arises we'll do it. But right now we've taken our assets and focused them on the gang issue and we're having some success there," City Manager Al Lott said.

Police do monitor the cameras during events, when they know there will be large crowds downtown. And Lott says if the economy gets better, the infrastructure is there if they can hire full time monitors.

"It gives us the opportunity also in the future if the need arises, to have somebody full time doing it," Lott said.

So the surveillance cameras record the downtown area, but people still are not really sure they get comfort knowing if they become a crime victim the crook might be caught.

"I guess somebody could go ahead and do it, but at least you would have a better shot of knowing who it was," Henrietta Brown said.

Would that stop crime down here, people knowing there are cameras?  "Definitely, when word gets out," Dozier said.

The surveillance cameras have been operational since the Fourth of July, and seem to be having some effect. Downtown has one of the lowest crime rates in Albany.

Albany Police tell us they have gone back to look at downtown surveillance video during several investigations, but they say the cameras haven't yet helped solve any crimes.

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