Keeping an eye on crime from above

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 16, 2009



LAPLACE – St. John Parish residents considering engaging in criminal activity may want to get ready for their close-ups.

Sheriff Wayne Jones on Thursday said his office is looking to hang a series of crime cameras from parish utility poles in crime hot spots on both sides of the river. The Sheriff’s Office was granted a unanimous letter of no objection from the St. John Parish Council at its meeting Tuesday night.

“This is going to be a good law enforcement tool for us and will certainly provide some sense of security to law abiding residents,” Jones said of the cameras. “We’re hoping they will also act as a possible deterrent to crime.”

Jeff Clement, chief civil deputy for the Sheriff’s Office, told the council the sheriff is looking to install about 20 wireless cameras in various locations throughout the parish. He said some of the cameras would be visible, while others would be covert.

“We are still making final decisions on where the cameras might go,” Clement said. “Right now we are just in the process of setting up the infrastructure.”

Clement said a pair of grants totaling $251,782 from the Edward Byrne Memorial Assistance Grant Program would fund most of the cost of the cameras. The Sheriff’s Office would cover the remainder. He said a Baton Rouge Company, MMR Constructors Inc., was awarded a $315,142 contract to install the cameras.

The cameras could be up and running within 90 days, Clement said.

“The equipment is being purchased now, and we are working on linking both the east and west banks,” Clement said. “The cameras will be tied to the parish’s 9-1-1 system.”

Jones said the crime cameras are something he has wanted in the parish for quite some time. He said the system would be implemented slowly and then built up over time.

“We sat back almost 18 months to listen to problems that other parishes have had with their cameras,” Jones said. “We wanted to avoid the types of setbacks seen in New Orleans and other places. We are talking about a much smaller scale system that will be easier to monitor.”

Jones said many of the areas destined for the cameras have already been identified. He said his office is still deciding on the final few spots.

St. John Parish Public Safety Director Paul Oncale said the Sheriff’s Office needed permission from the parish before installing the system on utility poles. He said the department also has an agreement with Entergy to share the poles for the cameras.