Columbia to add 80 more camera locations

08/04/2014 9:00 PM

03/14/2015 4:54 AM

The Columbia Police Department will more than double the number of locations around the city that are equipped with surveillance cameras paid for with public money.

Chief Skip Holbrook said officers are working with Statewide Security Systems, a private company, to coordinate camera installation at 80 new sites. The company already works with the city on 70 locations equipped with 250 cameras.

The current 250 cameras are in Columbia’s entertainment districts or along major business corridors, Holbrook told City Council in a written report.

The new sites stretch across the city from eastern to western and southern to northern boundaries. Cameras are being installed in the Harbison retail district, along Broad River Road, in north Columbia, along Huger and Assembly streets, along Devine Street east of Five Points and along stretches of Two Notch and Garners Ferry roads.

The city uses cameras with different capabilities, Holbrook wrote. Some are camera boxes that contain four cameras. Some cameras can tilt, pan and zoom. Some dome-shaped cameras can see in a semi-circle or full circle.

According to Holbrook’s report, Five Points has 22 camera sites; the central business district that straddles Main Street has cameras in 20 locations; Columbia College has 12 sites; the North Main Street corridor has 11 locations; the Rosewood Drive commercial strip has four sites and Devine Street businesses east of Five Points have one location.

The city pays $100,000 annually to maintain and service those cameras, the chief wrote. Installation of cameras carries an agreement that will provide police access to the images.

Holbrook is to review the city’s security camera plan with City Council at its Tuesday work session at City Hall.

Columbia is spending $1.4 million on its camera surveillance program that overlaps two fiscal years. Council approved $700,000 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, and an additional $675,000 for the fiscal year that began July 1, city budget director Missy Caughman said.

To determine where to place cameras, police analyze crime reports and calls for service. They produce crime density maps, and, further, police identify the busiest thoroughfares and their choke points, which means major intersections, Holbrook said.

Criteria for picking sites also include verifying that cameras are located in places where people have no reasonable expectation of privacy, that cameras can capture images of pedestrians as well as traffic and that sites coordinate with locations that already have cameras, he said.

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