New Cameras At Atlanta University Center Aim To Deter Crime

Al Such / WABE

The broadcast version of this storyCloser Look hosts Rose Scott and Jim Burress discuss the program with reporter Tasnim Shamma

The Atlanta University Center Consortium and the Atlanta Police Department unveiled $700,000 worth of security cameras and license plate readers on Tuesday.

During Dr. John Wilson Jr.’s first week as president of Morehouse College in January 2013, there was an armed robbery on campus, and a few days later, a student was shot near the campus. Since then, Wilson says he’s been asking the city of Atlanta for help.

“We’re going to continue until this is the safest place you can be in Atlanta because when our students feel safe, that’s when they can learn the most,” Wilson said.  

The four schools have installed a total of 35 cameras and five license plate readers that will feed a live stream to the city’s Video Integration Center in downtown Atlanta.

The high-resolution cameras will be able to tilt, zoom and spin 360 degrees, while the five license plate readers will be stationary and placed at major intersections.

Dave Wilkinson from the Atlanta Police Foundation says over the next year they’ll also be installing shot spotters in the area.  

“We’re in the process of also installing devices that will basically detect gunshots that will also help us triangulate the location of where the gunshot took place,” Wilkinson said. “But until those are in place, the cameras and license plate readers will tell us all, because typically when gunshots go off, we are notified through a 911 call, which immediately will put all this into action.”

Cameras at Georgia State University and Georgia Tech are already connected to the city of Atlanta’s video integration center.

The total cost of the cameras was $700,000. Each school pitched in $100,000 and pooled together $400,000, while the city of Atlanta pitched in $300,000.

Taylor Harrell, a student at Spelman College, said she feels safe with Atlanta Police Department officers already patrolling the area. She said it’s not uncommon to see public safety officers from other schools on each other’s campuses.

“We do have a sense of safety, especially at Spelman, living inside the gates, but adding the cameras I think is just an added benefit for the crimes that do happen maybe that’s caught on camera versus if a patrol officer isn’t around,” Harrell said.  

The Atlanta University Center Consortium is made up of four schools: Clark Atlanta University, Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, and the Morehouse School of Medicine. 

D’Aubrien DeLoach, a student at Morehouse College, said he’s always felt safe, but this could help prevent criminals.  

“Now it’s like, you’re always being watched so you definitely have to be careful so it definitely makes them a bit more cautious, so it holds them back a bit,” DeLoach said.

The cameras will stream to a server at the data center in the AUC Woodruff Library, which is shared by all four schools. The cameras will be monitored by AUC police at each school and the Atlanta Police Department at the video integration center.

APD Chief Erika Shields said the city has 7,500 cameras connected to the city’s Video Integration Center. She said the goal is to have 10,000 before Mayor Reed leaves office.

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