Atlanta police say expanded camera network will help improve public safety

Connect Atlanta
Atlanta's interim police chief Darin Schierbaum (speaking) with Mayor Andre Dickens and Maj. Michael O'Connor discuss the city's Connect Atlanta website. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

Atlanta police are asking the city’s business community and residents to help build out a larger network of surveillance cameras in the city.

It comes as Atlanta looks to use technology to help make the city safer amid a sustained wave of violent crime.

Interim police chief Darin Schierbaum says there’s a long history of the public helping police fight crime.

“We come to you today to talk about what is truly the ‘neighborhood watch’ of the 21st century,” Schierbaum said during a press conference Tuesday at Atlanta police headquarters.

The city has started using a tool called Connect Atlanta that uses a network of thousands of public and private surveillance cameras around the city. Major Michael O’Connor says in the last few months those cameras have helped Atlanta police track and find an elderly Alzheimer’s patient.

“And when she enters the MARTA bus, that helps us a ton,” O’Connor said as he described a video playing behind him. “Because obviously, we can get with MARTA and check the route.”

In another instance, O’Connor says an arrest was made following a shootout caught on a convenience store camera that police might have previously been unaware of.

“And all we would have gone out there and done is collect shell casings and we wouldn’t really have a clue about what happened because nobody stayed on scene,” said O’Connor.

Police are asking residents to use the website to register devices like doorbell cameras. This would let investigators have an e-mail on file to ask for video of suspicious activity in that area.

A second way police want to expand the network is by the use of “integrated cameras.” These are usually in public areas and owned by businesses or government agencies, and video feeds from these cameras would be available to police in real time.

Mayor Andre Dickens says as Atlanta continues efforts to attract more officers, technology can help keep more eyes on the city.

“Your participation is truly invaluable in aiding our police, our firefighters and first responders to rapidly respond to criminal activity and emergency situations,” Dickens said.