City mulls high-tech upgrade

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

CONYERS -- The Conyers Police Department is considering new equipment to help solve and prevent crimes in the city.

Capt. Scott Freeman said the department has been looking at license plate recognition equipment and Pelco brand cameras. The cameras would act as surveillance in the city's business district and act as a "force multiplier," according to Freeman, in high-crime areas, such as Dogwood Drive and Ga. Highway 138. The LPR (SkyCop brand) would be mounted at specific locations to help find stolen vehicles by scanning tags and running them through a known database.

"We feel that it could be very beneficial," Freeman said. "One stolen vehicle off the streets could potentially mean less crime in the rest of the community."

Representatives from SkyCop and Pelco came to the police headquarters earlier this month for a hands-on demonstration of the equipment's features and capability.

The option to purchase this equipment has been on the table for at least five years. But Freeman said recent crimes partly prompted the current consideration.

"We obviously have some high-profile crime to take place which, of course, brings up the question if technology can be deployed to improve public safety," Freeman said.

The equipment would be part of "proactive policing," according to Freeman, saying it is better to be prepared.

"It's really nothing more than a continuation," Freeman said. "Every year they looked at it to see how it's improved and the cost benefit of deploying the technology."

Freeman said there were no cost estimates yet for the equipment.

But he said the department has been looking at it because of the upcoming budget requests to the City Council for fiscal year 2011-12. For now, it is just an option CPD is looking into with no commitments to purchase.

"It would depend on what level of deployment we would have in the city," Freeman said of the costs.

Freeman pointed to a recent visit to Memphis, Tenn., to see its police department's real-time crime center. Memphis officials reported a drop in the crime rate by using the cameras.

"It's something that we know is out there. Other police departments are using that type of technology," Freeman said.

Police Chief Gene Wilson said in a recent press release that the city's Wi-Fi network would help the new equipment communicate wirelessly.

"While we make the effort, clearly the police can't be everywhere at once," Wilson said. "Pelco and SkyCop are new products that we're considering for use in Conyers to enhance our flexibility and be additional eyes and ears on alert to aid the Police Department's efforts."