The police are watching

rlowe@thestate.comNovember 15, 2013 

— If you feel like someone is watching you, you may be right.

Starting Friday night, about 50 surveillance cameras placed by the city in Columbia hospitality districts such as Five Points and the Vista will be monitored live, Police Chief Ruben Santiago announced in a news release.

That means someone from the Columbia Police Department or Statewide Security Systems, which owns the surveillance cameras, will be watching “during various times of the day and night.” CPD spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons refused to be more specific on when and where live-monitored cameras would be directed.

”We are careful not to tip would-be criminals about our efforts specifically,” she said.

A police officer will be stationed at Statewide Security Systems’ office in Columbia to monitor the cameras, Santiago said.

“Officers will be able to monitor suspicious activity, gather investigative information on suspects, and corroborate or disprove information or someone’s alibi in real time,” Santiago said in making the announcement. “We want to stop crime as much as we can before it happens and catch a suspect more quickly.”

The Five Points restaurant and bar area is saturated with some 200 security cameras financed in large part by Five Points business owners. Video from those cameras is made available to law enforcement, which has used them to track down suspects in major violent crimes — including the shooting that paralyzed USC student Martha Childress, on Oct. 13.

The shooting — between Greene and Devine streets — was captured on video by one of the surveillance cameras in operation in Five Points.

In the video, the shooter is clearly identifiable, CPD spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said at the time. Following the quick arrest of a suspect, Santiago said “Streets thugs are on notice. If you decide to commit a crime in Five Points, you will be caught on surveillance camera and you will be captured by law enforcement and sent to jail.”

Live monitoring will take place through cameras placed throughout the city.

Santiago will review the effort this weekend and see if the live-monitoring should be maintained or put in place long-term, Timmons said.

Staff writer Noelle Phillips contributed.

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