By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
Cleaning up crime is high on the list for Gainesville Police Department Chief Steven Fleming. The police chief outlined some city security measures at Wednesday’s Gainesville Lions Club meeting.
Fleming spoke about several new programs the department has implemented to help reduce crime and improve the quality of life in the city.
Fleming said the department is participating in an experimental program to deter crime through a service called Wild Fire Communications. The initial program will include five cameras placed in designated higher potential crime areas.
The high resolution digital cameras purchased at a cost of just over $12,000 will be linked directly to the police department for direct monitoring.
The monitor at the station will be able to send an officer to the scene and provide a faster response to activity requiring a police presence.
The cameras will also allow officers in patrol units to directly link in to the cameras for on-the-spot information transfer. The ability to forward paperwork to the station is designed to save officers time and allow more time on the streets, Fleming noted.
Initial locations of the five cameras will be at Main and Dixon Streets, Broadway and Dixon Streets, Rusk and Pecan Streets and California and Commerce Streets. A monitor will also be placed at the city’s skate park.
“If the cameras work out as we hope they will, the city could look at purchasing more cameras to enable more extensive coverage, perhaps even in vulnerable residential areas where crime or mischievous behavior such as graffiti has been a problem,” Fleming said.
The cameras should allow officers to discern details.
“The cameras have tilt and zoom capabilities which will allow us to move in on license plates on vehicles to determine if the vehicle was involved in a crime or if the vehicle has been stolen,” he said.
Fleming also said the department is concerned with graffiti.
“Cleaning up crime in town also involves cleaning up graffiti,” Fleming said. “We would prefer that the owner clean up the areas that have been desecrated by graffiti but if they sign and return an abatement form which we can mail to them, we can then go on the property and paint over any graffiti visible at no charge to the resident.”
Fleming said it’s important to quickly cover graffiti.
“If the owner of the property needs our assistance, we will gladly donate our free labor and paint but be forewarned that we are not professional painters,” he said.
Other new equipment to be used involves an Automatic License Plate Recognition system (ALPR) which uses a software system known as Alert View. The cost of the equipment, installation and software is approximately $17,700. Through a memo of understanding with the Department of Public Safety, information can be exchanged twice a day directly into the GPD system.
The ALPR equipment is mounted on a police vehicle and scans vehicular plates which pass in front or behind it.
If a plate shows up in the system, further investigation or information regarding the vehicle is required.
Everything from Amber alerts, stolen vehicles and class C citations can be entered into the system for quick verification.
“As part of a joint task force in cooperation with city officials, we can also map out certain crime areas based on the number of calls that come in through a system software known as Crime Response,” he continued. “We are able to map out crime areas and direct officers on duty accordingly.”
Fleming also addressed online criminal activity.
“If you don’t know who sent you an e-mail it is best not to open it to prevent scammers from getting any personal information,” he advised.
Fleming also warned of criminals who prey on the elderly.
“Before you agree to give anyone any money, ask them for a city permit for the service they want to do or for what they are selling,” he explained. “If the person that is directly soliciting does not have a permit, call us and we can verify the situation.”
In closing, Fleming reinforced the goals of the GPD to use cutting edge equipment, procedures and to cooperate with city officials in deterring crime as they work to provide a safe environment for the citizens of Gainesville.