‘We wanted it to be very overt:’ Columbia Police installs 50+ security cameras throughout the city

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Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 9:39 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Columbia Police Department has installed at least 50 new security cameras at various busy intersections and business districts throughout the capital city since September.

According to Inspector Johnny Sellers with the Columbia Police, these cameras will help the department respond to crimes more efficiently.

“As calls for service come into our officers, they can look at those locations if there’s a camera nearby to give a better perspective or faster perspective for officers responding to those locations,” he said.

There have been cameras throughout Columbia since 2013, but these upgraded cameras will now have livestreaming capability.

The Columbia City Council approved $8 million to fund the new technology in 2019, but the installation had not begun until this fall.

When the installation is complete, there will be 200 of these cameras throughout Columbia, some of which will be placed at locations that previously did not have surveillance.

Some locations where cameras already have been installed include the intersections of Main Street and Elmwood Avenue, in the heart of Five Points on Harden Street, and near the Food Lion on Devine Street.

With bright blue lights on white boxes, Sellers said the Columbia Police has intentionally made these cameras easy to detect and in plain sight.

“We wanted it to be very overt because of the fact that it does let people feel assured that public safety is one of our priorities, and we want to make sure folks feel safe in those locations,” he said. “And it is overt in the fact that those lights are very visible, even during the daytime, so that those who may want to commit a crime or do something that’s not right, will hopefully avoid that, especially in those locations.”

Columbia resident Terry Jackson believes that is a smart tactic.

“Let’s be honest, if you see the camera there as you’re having an idea to commit something, it’s going to pretty much deter you knowing that, hey, it’s literally right there,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to try to be sly or try to be slick when you clearly can see they can more than likely catch me.”

Each location will have at least four additional cameras to provide a 360-degree view of the area, and 30 of them will also have a feature that allows officers to zoom in if there’s any type of disturbance.

Marian Hutchinson, who lives in Columbia, said this is a worthy investment as long as it does not take away from other police activity and patrols.

“So we don’t have enough police officers to cover every corner, and so if there was something that they can do, if we can utilize technology in order to maintain the safety of our community, I think that it’s a good thing,” she said.

All cameras will be monitored at the Columbia Police’s Real Time Crime Center.

In the old system, if officers wanted to access surveillance video, they would need to coordinate with a third-party company to download it.

Under the new system, all the videos will be stored in the cloud for 45 days and can be accessed at any time from the Real Time Crime Center.

WIS asked Sellers how the Columbia Police plans to balance privacy versus public safety in this effort.

“So we did not look at spying on private individuals, private residences, we looked at public spaces that we wanted to have these cameras located and that’s what they’re there for,” he said.

Columbia Police plans to have the rest of the 150 upgraded cameras installed by February.

The department will be taking the next several months to staff up the Real Time Crime Center and hopes to have that monitored 24/7.

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