A digital video camera system touted by some Statesboro City Council members for crime prevention so far deploys 18 traffic cameras, all on Lanier Drive and Chandler Road near the Georgia Southern University campus.
Asked about the cameras during a break in the Oct. 15 City Council meeting, Chief Mike Broadhead of the Statesboro Police Department said the recently installed system “went live” that day for the first time.
Police will use the recorded digital video to investigate crimes “after the fact” and to accompany reports of traffic crashes, he told the Statesboro Herald.
“I’m convinced that if people commit violent crimes anywhere on or near the campus, they’re using one of those two roadways to get across campus,” Broadhead said. “We’ve found that in a couple of different cases. So we’re trying to get good video evidence of people leaving the scene of crimes or traveling to and from crimes.”
Initially at least, images obtained were not as sharp or closely focused as he had hoped.
“So that is how it was originally envisioned, but they just went live today, and they really are just traffic cameras, which is fine for their purpose, but we’re going to work with the company and see if we can get them to be a little bit more focused, like on license plates,” Broadhead said.
He said the Statesboro Police Department has neither “the people nor the inclination,” to monitor the video in real time.
“These cameras – if people have, you know, privacy issues – they are focused just on the roadways,” Broadhead said. “You can see the edges of the roadways, obviously the sidewalks and things, but they’re not focused at businesses or buildings or residences at all.”
The equipment and service are contracted through Georgia Power, so the city did not have any up-front costs for the cameras or other equipment, he said. The Police Department, from its operating budget, is paying the power company a monthly fee of roughly $100 per camera, which includes data storage and electricity, as well as the cameras and other equipment.
So this totals about $1,800 each month.
“If we had had to build that infrastructure ourselves, it would have cost us several thousand dollars, and we’d have a monthly fee for electricity that’s ongoing as well as storage of videos, so it’s a great deal for us,” Broadhead said.
So far, the Police Department has not needed an increase in its budget to pay for the camera service. To fund it, city officials have repurposed most of the $2,500 a month previously budgeted for the rent on a trailer-like temporary building used as an SPD substation at the Malecki Drive-Chandler Road intersection.
The substation lease with Property Mart began Jan. 1, 2018, with the original plan being for the Police Department to move into a higher-rent permanent building, Property Mart’s own Chandler Road office, after six months. But Property Mart never moved out of that building, and the SPD kept the trailer-style substation at the lower rent for the entire 18-month lease, which ended June 30.
“This (the camera system) is sort of taking the place of that, even though it’s a little bit less expensive,” Broadhead said. “It gives us what we were hoping for, which is that sort-of permanent presence in the neighborhood.”
The Paulson Stadium-area substation, according to the chief, was largely a failed experiment.
“We got almost no walk-in traffic there,” he said. “People just weren’t using it.”
Georgia Southern has an extensive security camera system, but it does not cover the surrounding roadways, so the city-funded cameras should pick up where the university’s system leaves off, he said.
Georgia Power’s role
Georgia Power markets security camera services through a program trademarked as SiteView, launched in 2017. It provides external surveillance technology to commercial and industrial, as well as governmental, customers.
“We are actively working with several local governments, including Statesboro, for installation of SiteView cameras on both lighting and electric utility poles,” Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said in an email Thursday.
SiteView also offers LPR, or license plate recognition, cameras, he noted, and this was also advertised on an overview page at the Georgia Power website. The company offers several brands of camera equipment, such as Vigilant Solutions, Genetec and Flock Safety.
One question to Georgia Power was whether the power company or a third-party provider holds the archived data from Statesboro’s cameras.
“We work with local governments to ensure compliance with all laws and codes,” Kraft wrote. “Video or data feeds do not come through Georgia Power; it is usually provided directly to the customer via cloud-based services. The customer owns the data and determines how they will use it and how long they will retain the data pursuant to any local laws.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.