COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Wednesday morning, city leaders debuted one of the 10 new Neighborhood Watch Camera Systems they will be installing throughout Columbus.
Mayor Keith Gaskin and Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton held a press conference at the city hall and had the camera unit on display.
“We’re demonstrating to the citizens and to those who are committing crimes in the area that we’re very serious about bringing them to justice, having cameras like this,” the mayor said. “Bringing us into the 21st century.”
The Columbus City Council approved the purchase and installation of surveillance cameras in May amid the continuous stretch of violent crimes plaguing the city.
“It’s just a really scary thing and it makes me nervous to even sometimes just be sitting in my living room,” says Columbus resident Lanie Thomas. “I mean, drive-bys have been happening.”
Thomas says she has lived on the Southside of Columbus for most of her life and says she and her neighbors hear the sound of gunshots on a regular basis.
“People are just scared, they don’t know what to do,” she says. “They’re in their homes and they don’t feel safe anymore. So it’s kind of on the verge of, ‘Do we leave? Do we not leave? ‘”
The state-of-the-art surveillance cameras will allow Columbus Police and all local law enforcement agencies to be more places at once.
“This is a new way of using technology, to be our eyes and ears in the community,” says Chief Shelton. “To see things and catch things that we can use later in investigations and take away some of the fear factor for the citizens.”
The city will install 10 camera systems in areas where violent crime in particular has been at its worst.
“The crime statistics in that area, the amount of crimes that have been committed in an area,” said Cheif Shelton we did some, we did some crime mapping and kind of decided where these areas where we saw an uptick in crime, “
The cameras will record 24-hours a day in color, showing heat signatures and giving off motion alerts. Chief Shelton says they will have officers checking the footage every 12 hours.
“When we get information about a suspect or car, and we say we have a suspect with a pink hat on and a red shirt and blue jeans, and the axes see that in color, so we can see that person in real life, real -time, real color. ”
Mayor Gaskin has supported the initiative even before he took office.
“I feel like my role as mayor is to help (CPD) have the best equipment possible to do their jobs effectively and give the citizens a peace of mind.”
The hope is that these cameras can be a good start towards restoring that peace of mind.
“It’s very reassuring and I’m actually very glad about the cameras,” Thomas says.
The first camera system will be installed Thursday in the Southside while the other nine will go up over the next two to three months.
“They will be recording and we will get color photos,” Chief Shelton says. “So if you’re doing a crime, you might not want to come to Columbus, Mississippi.”