When The Lights Go Down

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23 News Reporter Laura Gibbs spent Saturday night learning why more cameras may be coming to your neighborhood. It looks like a 911 center but it's not. It’s the same equipment but with a different purpose.

Businesses and landlords hire Merchants Police to monitor activity 24-7 either with surveillance cameras or by foot. Corporate Manager of Merchants Police Dennis Wysong states, "We can see cameras from here we can diagnose problems."

Most staff members have a background in law enforcement. But unlike Rockford Police, Merchants Police can't make arrests, they only detain, they are armed and can only enforce laws on their clients property.

Wysong says, "We're in places as much as 24 hours a day in certain locations where the city would never have the manpower to do that." In one apartment complex in the 500 block of Fisher Avenue you never know what's going on behind closed doors. All night long Merchants Police hit this area hard. Some residents are in jail so their vacant apartment is a place for others to play.

Larry Hodges with Merchants Police tells 23 News, "The people doing prostitution, people out buying crack commonly kick the door in, prostitutes use apartments to bring their johns to and people smoking crack will smoke it here."

In an apartment across the hall all the boards and nails in the world couldn't stop one predator. Hodges states, "The cockroaches in here are really bad. You can see they are all over the place."

That's why Merchants Police say they do the work that most people don't touch. Rockford Police tell 23 News that Wednesday they did a sweep at the same apartment complex and arrested several people. All face drug charges. Merchants Police have hundreds of clients and with the new monitoring center and equipment all clients will have cameras recording around the clock. The system alerts Merchants Police when something is wrong. In the next few weeks you can expect to see cameras in the Hope 6 Champion Park development and along 7th Street.