Norwich police add 8 surveillance cameras to network

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Norwich — Police this summer added eight new surveillance cameras to a citywide network that allows them to monitor situations in real time and after the fact.

Chief Patrick Daley said the department now has 29 cameras in Greeneville, Westside, Oakwood Knoll, downtown and on North Main Street.

Since installing the first four cameras in 2012, police have caught people faking injuries after crashes, identified suspects in public fights and broadcasted information that helped officers catch fleeing vehicles.

“They’ve been very beneficial to us,” Daley said.

Daley said he believes this is the fourth time his department has used Community Development Block Grant funds on the cameras, which pan, tilt and zoom and cost between $12,000 and $13,000 each.

Norwich typically gets between $700,000 and $900,000 annually in CDBG funding, which helps municipalities create better living and working environments for low- to moderate-income families.

The funds cover installation — performed by Norwich Public Utilities rather than an outside contractor — hardware and storage.

The department keeps all footage for 30 days in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, Daley said.

Each camera is linked to police headquarters through the city’s fiber optic network. Daley said police do pay to use the network but he didn’t know the exact cost because it’s wrapped into the overall utilities bill.

When appealing to the city for funding, Daley said, police consider three things: whether the network exists in the area under consideration, whether there’s a need for the cameras and whether the neighborhood qualifies for CDBG funding.

Police wanted some of the latest round of cameras to go into Taftville, for example, but when they learned it didn’t qualify for the funding, they went with Westside instead.

Daley said no one has raised privacy concerns that he knows of.

“Even the local (American Civil Liberties Union) representative said he had no issues with it a few years back,” Daley said. “We’re in public spaces, not private residences.”

Indeed, former ACLU-CT staff attorney David McGuire — now president of the chapter — told The Day in 2013 that the department's policy was "a solid one."

The policy, available online, instructs officers not to use the cameras to invade residents' privacy, collect information about residents' political, religious or social views, or monitor residents solely based on race, age, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or physical disability, among other things.

In applying for the funding, police said many studies have found public surveillance can reduce crime, assist in investigations and make people feel safer. The cameras also can positively impact driver behavior, police said.

Daley said his force is taking a breather to evaluate how the existing cameras are working but he wouldn’t rule out future expansion of the system.

The department will add more “if we find more places where cameras might serve a purpose,” he said. “Some cities have thousands. Hartford has 400. You can see cameras are becoming the norm.”

l.boyle@theday.com

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