Durango may be late to the game when it comes to surveillance technology now available to law enforcement, but the addition of three high-resolution cameras on Main Avenue is changing that.
On Thursday, three cameras, described by Durango Police Department Cmdr. Ray Shupe as “state of the art,” were installed at the College Drive, Ninth Street and 11th Street intersections on Main Avenue.
Videos from the static cameras will be recorded 24/7 and will be stored for 30 days to review in crime investigations, principally crimes made by people on foot and for help with reports of incidents of such things as suspicious backpacks or packages left on the street.
“The cameras we’re utilizing were actually used during the Boston City Marathon bombing,” Shupe said. “That’s how they tracked the packages to the people who left them behind, and they were able to ID suspects pretty quickly.”
Perhaps the main effect of the cameras will be to make downtown safer.
“What we find in different cities that have deployed these cameras is that you get a reduction in the amount of crime that occurs because people know they’re being recorded,” said DPD Deputy Chief Brice Current.
Footage won’t be monitored daily, but it will be monitored live during special events, such as Taste of Durango and Snowdown when large crowds gather on Main Avenue.
Shupe noted lost children are a common problem during festivals, and cameras will be helpful reuniting children with their families.
Cameras will not be used to identify moving-vehicle violations such as speeding, illegal U-turns or other traffic infractions, Shupe said.
The three cameras and the computer system behind them cost $30,000, and now it will be cheaper to add cameras to the system, Shupe said.
Main Avenue was chosen for the first cameras because it has the infrastructure, principally fiber optics, to support the system.
Businesses will soon be able to pay for a camera for placement inside their shops and restaurants, Shupe said.
Police officials were worried about the possibility people would object to the Orwellian Big Brother nature of the cameras, but the Business Improvement District and merchants were consulted about the cameras’ installation, and they were overwhelmingly supportive of their addition, Current said,
BID Executive Director Tim Walsworth said his group and a sample of businesses were polled about use of the cameras, and they were supportive.
Downtown merchants see the value in the cameras – not only in keeping down petty crime – but as an aid when Main is filled with celebrants.
“Hopefully, in the near future, when we can gather again in large numbers downtown, it’ll help with crowd-control things; it’ll help find lost kids during Snowdown,” he said.
Walsworth was not aware businesses could purchase cameras for use inside their shops and restaurants, but he suspects it would be something a number of merchants will be interested in adding.
In the future, Current said, the cameras could be integrated into the emergency dispatch system so dispatchers could give real-time information to responding officers.
Zombies frequently march down Main Avenue on Halloween.
Shupe said he has not heard if the undead will be out Saturday, but if ghouls do show, they might serve as the first subjects in a trial run of live-monitoring for the cameras.