Cams a Critical Crime-Fighting Tool: Weis

Police superintendent says cams helped solve 4,500 crimes so far this year

By BJ Lutz and Dick Johnson
|  Monday, Aug 30, 2010  |  Updated 10:30 PM CDT
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Police Supt. Jody Weis on Monday lauded the network of blue light cameras that sit high above Chicago's streets, claiming they've helped solve more than 4,500 crimes since the beginning of the year.

"The police can't be everywhere every minute of the day, so the cameras play a critical role in preventing and solving crime," he said.

Weis was joined Monday evening by Jose Santiago, the Executive Director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, and by Jonathan Lewin, the Managing Deputy Director of Public Safety and Information Technology, to illustrate two recent examples of how the the Police Observation Devices, or PODs, played a role in solving a crime.

On May 2, a camera on the 1300 block of East 75 Street appears to show two men in a drug transaction. The camera was being controlled nearby, inside the District 3 headquarters. Once the sale appears to be consummated, a pre-assigned tactical team rushed in and made an arrest.

All of the city's cameras can be viewed at the city's 911 center.  In some cases, an officer, perhaps someone who is on desk duty, is redeployed to man a computer and control the closest camera to the problem.  In other cases, the address tied to a phone calling to report a crime will automatically trigger the nearest camera to begin looking for the trouble.

That's exactly what happened on July 30, when police say a passenger's anger over a fare led him to attack his cab driver near the corner of West Elm Street and North LaSalle Boulevard. The camera was triggered by a call and officers then manning the camera were able to communicate to their counterparts on the street to make an arrest.

"We're using more people on the street in a focused area, but we're also using cameras in a more focused and strategic manner so that we can tie technology with actual personnel," Weis said. "We just think it gives a great capability to catch the bad guys."

Some might question the timing of Monday's press event.  Last Friday, the website SecondCityCop, which has been highly critical of Weis and Mayor Richard Daley, blasted the POD cameras as "just another boondoggle that gave the appearance of police coverage."

But Weis said the cameras have been the lead investigator in roughly 24,000 missions, and many involved with their implementation credit the mayor for pushing the surveillance network idea the past 10 years.

Weis claimed the camera network is now the best in the nation.

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