The Westminster Police Department is in the procurement process for security cameras in areas downtown that see more calls for service.
Chief Thomas Ledwell said the cameras could be a “force multiplier” for the department. He said he sees the benefit of cameras as three-fold.
The first is deterrence because people may be deterred from committing crime in areas with known camera surveillance. The second benefit he named is for investigation, when police can go back to look at camera footage. The third would be real-time viewing of an area. Ledwell said that a live feed would be monitored based on credentialed access, limited to sworn officers.
“Its not just reactive, it going to become proactive,” Westminster Councilman Tony Chiavacci said.
The cameras haven’t been purchased yet, but a capital improvement project was approved as part of the current financial year budget. Ledwell said the matter would come before the Westminster Common Council again. The city will need to either piggyback onto a pre-exisiting bid or contract or put out a request for proposal. The cameras will be funded by federal forfeiture funds.
The locations for the cameras have not been finalized.
Chiavacci, who is chairman of Westminster’s Public Safety Committee, said the council would rely on the police department to choose the locations. He said he was confident that Ledwell would make use of data and analytics as well as human intelligence from police officers familiar with a beat.
Still under consideration is what kind of cameras will be purchased.
Ledwell said some options offer 180-degree rotation, while others may be more fixed but offer clearer images of faces or vehicle tags. The department is also interested in infrared capability so the camera could record crime that occurs at night.
Chiavacci said in the past he has had some reservations about the intrusion on privacy posed by cameras, but with improvements and increases in modern technology, he said it is becoming more and more apparent that people do not have the same expectations for privacy they once did.
Another consideration is one or two mobile cameras, though Ledwell said fixed cameras are the first priority. Police could move a mobile camera to an area that has been found to be a hotspot. Mobile cameras come in many forms and “a lot is budget-dependent,” he said.
Chiavacci said cameras may help the police to improve residents’ and visitors’ perception of safety.
“That’s something we constantly struggle with,” he said. By looking at data, Westminster is a very safe city, he said, but it’s important to address people’s perceptions of danger so that they feel safe.
Currently the city of Westminster has some cameras in the city parking decks, Ledwell said. As part of a criminal investigation, police canvas the nearby area for cameras at private businesses and homes. The footage from these cameras has been helpful in solving past investigations, he said.
Before the locations are finalized and the cameras can be purchased, the department has to determine that the location has a connectivity source, a power source and a connection to a server on the back end.