RPD Eyes High-Tech Camera System

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Detectives often use cameras installed throughout the City of Rockford as evidence. But five years since they started being installed, Rockford Police think they can do a better job solving crime and keeping our families safe. The Department is trying to secure money that allows them access to hundreds of other cameras already up and running throughout the city.

Rockford Art Deli's three security cameras caught someone spraying the downtown store with BBs.

That someone's license plate though, wasn't captured. But one day, private security cameras like these could be accessible to Rockford Police, helping eventually solve more crime.

"You see it in the movies all of the time, that technology is real. I'll tell you it's very expensive so it's nothing we can take out of our budgets," says Lt. Pat Hoey.

RPD applied for a joint federal grant with the Rockford Housing Authority that funds a high-tech system that allows them to tap into security cameras at businesses. This turns their 30-camera system into one of hundreds. It's a technology Rockford Art Deli's owner isn't sure he'd like.

"When we had that incident, we offered video, we actually burned it on DVD and gave it to police, that's more realistic than "oh are they watching me today"," says R.A.D. co-owner Jarrod Hennis.

Lt. Pat Hoey says they'd only have access to businesses and individuals who sign up. And wouldn't use the system to randomly spy. That requires a much larger staff. And right now, they have a hard enough time monitoring the existing cameras. The day 23 News stopped by, no one was in the surveillance room. And that wasn't a fluke.

"More often than we'd like. It was designed to have someone monitoring it 24 hours a day, but manpower doesn't allow it," says Lt. Hoey.

Lt. Hoey couldn't list any specific crimes where cameras caught criminals, but says they help determine best use of manpower. Like during this river rescue from a couple weeks ago.

"The fire dispatcher was able to say there's an officer watching on video and the victim is out of the water," he says.

Cameras are also used in coordinating disaster response. Which is typically run by Winnebago County. Just recently, the county installed software that gives them access to the city's cameras.

"My job now is to bring all of the hospitals together, bring ComEd, police departments, fire departments because if we have an incident as large as what happened in Oklahoma City, it's going to take all of those players to bring us back together," says Jerry Wiltfang, Director of Emergency Operations for Winnebago County.

RPD is in the process of reviewing the current cameras' locations to make sure they'll better capture necessary evidence.

The City of Chicago has this software that allows them to tap into businesses' cameras. They have two-thousand city cameras, but access to 14-thousand private cameras. No word when Rockford will hear back from the feds on whether they'll receive grant money.

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