AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Austin Police Department's eyes in the sky are paying dividends in the form of faster response times and sharper intelligence, and now it's likely that more of them will be popping up at strategic locations downtown.
"What we're trying to do is more of an intelligence-led policing type," said Senior Police Officer Michael Schulteis. "We'll know a better description of the suspects, suspect vehicles, direction of travel -- that kind of thing."
- Police launch crime camera program
- Cameras capture 6th Street assault
- HALO program paying off, police say
The department's crime camera program -- officially called HALO, for High Activity Location Observation -- was launched in July with four in the area around the Rundberg Lane area. Then, 27 were added in the downtown bar district clustered around Sixth Street.
The cameras have captured several crimes in progress, including drug deals, foot chases, assaults and a homicide near the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. They can zoom in close enough to clearly show the details of a person's tattoo.
"Most of the activity is around the ARCH during the daytime," said Senior Police Officer Lori Noriega , who monitors the cameras in the Real Time Crime Center during the day shift.
Noriega serves as the eyes for patrol officers on the ground and often guides her counterparts on the ground directly to suspects who have been captured committing a crime on camera.
"I don't think it changes anything that they do or how they act," said Noriega. "I think they just do what they do and not even think about it."
Four new cameras have been proposed for the Warehouse District in Downtown Austin, and will likely be placed on Congress Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets.
Two additional new cameras are also proposed for the Rundberg Lane area. Officers in the Real Time Crime Center at APD headquarters already monitor four cameras on Rundberg, and said they have seen a decrease in crime and loitering in that area since the cameras went up in July.
Officers have also monitored 27 cameras in the downtown area since November. The cameras have captured several crimes in progress, including drug deals, foot chases, assaults and a homicide near the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.
APD has not seen a decrease in violent crime downtown since the cameras went up, but they said it is too early to expect a drop in crime.
In December, violent crime downtown was up more than 26 percent from the same time year before. Property crime downtown increased by 11 percent.
Ultimately, the police department hopes the cameras not only catch crime, but also help deter it. Signs that will clearly state that video surveillance is being conducted have been ordered and will be installed in the next two months.
Police said detectives are beginning to request video from the HALO cameras as evidence for crimes they are investigating. In November and December combined, detectives asked for the video in 19 separate instances. They requested video the same amount of times in January alone.
"The more intelligence we have, the better we can protect the community," said Schulteis.
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