Crime cameras working

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 30, 2010



LAPLACE – From the warden’s office at St. John Parish’s Sherman Walker Correctional Facility, Capt. Troy Hidalgo zooms in on vehicles traveling Airline Highway near Belle Terre Boulevard.

Although he is no where near the intersection, Hidalgo, technology director for the Sheriff’s Office, has the ability to read a license plate number thanks to a wireless camera mounted on a pole just off the roadway. The camera is one of 16 that are part of the first wave of a fairly new system that deputies are using to aid in dispatches and help deter crimes.

“The advantages are unlimited,” Hidalgo said of the crime cameras. “They have made several aspects of our job much more efficient by giving us a new perspective on certain situations.”

Deputies at the 911 communications center monitor the cameras. Hidalgo said they are set up to allow dispatchers to pinpoint the source of a crime or any other incident involving deputy response.

“They are positioned in crime hot spots and on busy intersections where accidents commonly occur,” Hidalgo said. “There are times in an investigation where we have been able to use the cameras to get a look at everything coming and going in a neighborhood to see if a suspected vehicle or person has left a crime scene.”

The Sheriff’s Office began installation of the cameras in December, during the busy shopping season, with five cameras positioned around the shopping centers in LaPlace. Hidalgo said the remaining 11 were added throughout the months based on input from Sheriff Wayne Jones and other investigators. Hidalgo said four additional cameras have yet to be placed but should be up in the coming months.

“The final four are being held off to see if there are specific areas where crime flares up,” Hidalgo said. “We don’t want to have to move a camera that has already been installed.”

The ones already in place are already paying off. In the five months since installation, Hidalgo said the cameras have aided investigators in numerous drug arrests throughout the parish. They have also provided assistance to traffic division deputies responding to and investigating accidents.

“People have told us they feel safer,” Hidalgo said. “These cameras are completely overt. We are not trying to hide them. We want the public to know they are there. We’re not going to solve every crime with them, but if they are able to deter a criminal act, then they are working.”

The first wave of cameras was purchased in October with the help of a $251,782 federal grant. Hidalgo said the Sheriff’s Office paid for the remainder of the cost of installation. Now that nearly the entire first wave has been put in place, Hidalgo said the Sheriff’s Office is already looking to expand.

“The sheriff wants to see them in all the parks, and we are also trying to get them installed at school facilities including the football stadiums,” Hidalgo said. “There are also plans to use them in the court system for courtroom interviews with inmates during a trial.”