February 11, 2019 10:21:51 AM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
The city of Starkville will soon begin work on the first phase of an upgrade to a system of cameras throughout town.
Aldermen approved the rollout, which will see the city leasing 10 cameras from New Orleans-based Active Solutions, LLC for five years, at Tuesday's board meeting. City Technology Director Joel Clements said the cameras will cost about $1,200 per month.
The new cameras are an evolution of Starkville's camera system, which Clements said has been in place for about eight years downtown and in the Cotton District.
He said the existing cameras are connected to the city's system using cellular signal, which can experience problems when there's an event that draws lots of people to one area, such as Bulldog Bash. However, Clements said, the city has worked to create hardwired connections in collaboration with MaxxSouth Broadband and can now use cameras that feed footage directly to the city's system.
With that work completed, the city's IT department and Starkville Police Department are collaborating to expand the surveillance camera system throughout town. Clements said the current plan is to have up to 40 cameras throughout Starkville within the next five years.
The new cameras will be focused in the Cotton District and Russell Street area, with six of the 10 planned for deployment there. The city also plans to put up a camera at the Sportsplex, at the intersection by the Walmart in west Starkville on Highway 12, at the intersection of Stark Road and Highway 182 and in J.L. King Park.
"They (SPD) want to form a ring around town, all the major roads coming and going," Clements said. "(If there) is an incident and we do get a description of the vehicle, then hopefully we can catch that vehicle exiting town and get a tag number and things like that.
"And of course in the entertainment district -- the Cotton District and downtown area where we tend to have large crowds for gameday weekends and special events," he added.
SPD Public Information Officer Brandon Lovelady said the cameras have worked well so far, and have helped with felony and misdemeanor case investigations. Lovelady said that, while they can be watched live, they're going to be used to record footage which the police department can use during investigations.
"Say there's an incident," Lovelady said. "We can say this type of vehicle went through this intersection. It may not give you a tag number or a face every time, but if something happens in the area, you can go back and look at the footage."
Lovelady said the cameras are disk-shaped with four high-definition stationary cameras on each mount. He added they're visible, with flashing lights on them.
"We hope that not only will they deter crime because they're high visibility, but we hope they continue to assist with incident investigations," he said.
Clements said he hopes to have the new cameras fully implemented in six weeks. He said the city will keep the old cameras, which can be used in different locations.
"Even though you have the limitations with those because of the data, they're a lot more mobile because you can unstrap them from the pole and put them up somewhere else," he said. "Those will essentially become mobile units."
Mayor Lynn Spruill said she thinks the new cameras are a proactive approach for safety.
"We have and we foster a variety of large events, Bulldog Bash being one and the Cotton District Arts Festival being another, that we wish to continue to increase to bring more and more people to town," she said. "With that, I think, comes a heightened awareness that you have an obligation for their safety and security. It gives us an opportunity to anticipate issues and go back and research issues, if any occur."
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.