Security cameras at Atlantic City’s “most troubled” housing project are outdated and ineffective, with some cameras not even working, according to letters the city’s Housing Authority and police chief sent asking for more funding.
Stanley Holmes Village averages more than a police call a day, according to numbers Police Chief Ernest Jubilee provided to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Capital Improvements director in October as part of the authority’s attempts to get more funding. Six people were shot within four months last year, including a man who died after he was caught in the cross fire of a courtyard gunfight.
Preliminary work for a new wireless system at Stanley Holmes began Feb. 21, a month after the authority approved an $80,000 contract for TSG Solutions to do the work — and more than two months after a police chase resulted in the fatal shooting of a suspect Dec. 17.
At that time, several cameras were down due to damage from Hurricane Sandy seven weeks earlier. No images of that incident have been found on the cameras, including in hours of video released to The Press of Atlantic City under an Open Public Records Act request.
Even if the cameras had been working, it’s still possible a clear picture may not have been captured.
“Unfortunately, too often, the footage from their outdated equipment has provided us with little information to move our investigations forward,” Jubilee wrote to HUD.
But in a telephone interview with The Press, Jubilee said the cameras have been helpful in some investigations, “and I’m confident that, when the cameras are upgraded, they’ll be even more helpful.”
Better video equipment is especially important as the city works to install ShotSpotter, an audio system that captures the sound of gunfire. The plan is to have cameras already within the city hooked up to the audio sensors so police will be able to both hear and see gunfire.
“Cameras are an integral part of the ShotSpotter technology,” Jubilee said. “Although it works without cameras, it’s so much more helpful with cameras — especially ones that tilt, pan and zoom.
Those cost $4,327.50 each, according to the funding request.
The Police Department asked that the authority get the emergency funding to increase Stanley Holmes surveillance with 32 to 48 more cameras and at least three new digital video recorders with remote-access capabilities, Jubilee wrote.
Housing Authority Executive Director Pam James presented a budget that would spend $138,480 for 32 cameras and $4,850 apiece for DVRs. In addition to the request for a total of $250,000, the authority also has almost $400,000 left of a half-million dollars meant for a long-stalled camera project.
Paul Benne, vice president of TSG Solutions, met with members of the Housing Authority last month to discuss the plans.
“Our overall objective is to create an environment of safety and security for the residents of Stanley Holmes Village,” said Benne, who also did the system for Tanger Outlets The Walk. “It’s our job to go out there and figure out the best way to achieve that.”
This month will be spent gathering data from various entities, including having the company’s security engineer do a detailed review of all of the equipment.
“The most important point to make right now is that it’s simply being recognized that this is very important for both the residents of Stanley Holmes and the residents of Atlantic City,” Benne said. “Improvement and change are wanted.”
The TSG Solutions agreement includes maintenance of the cameras. That is important, as several cameras were down months after Sandy. James would not comment on the current state of those cameras, saying it is “confidential in nature, and we are not obligated to release full details.”
She did say that the current cameras are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with outages usually noted within a 12-hour period.
Repairs were last made to the cameras by Atlantic Coast Alarm in September, a month before Sandy took them out, James said.
But a representative of the company said the last time they were there was in July, when about a dozen new cameras were installed at the various Housing Authority properties in the city. That was the result of a bid, and no maintenance was done, he said.
The bid submitted by Andrew Toner last February prices the work at $66,890, which is the exact amount the authority listed as spending.
James insisted Atlantic Coast’s last visit was in September, and that — although several cameras were out of service after the storm — “we did maintain basic coverage of the interior of our property.”
She also stressed that the Dec. 17 police-involved shooting did not begin inside Stanley Holmes, and mostly happened in the property’s perimeter.
“From my sources, this incident did not originate at Stanley Holmes whatsoever,” James said. “The police were chasing the perpetrators, and they ran through Stanley and onto the main thoroughfare on (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard).”
The original call, police said at the time, was that there were armed men seen near Stanley Holmes. The call was not an unusual one. In the first nine months of 2012, police responded to more than 437 calls to the property, including 46 separate gun calls.
Jubilee said he could not comment on how that compares to the rest of the city, but he was unable to think of another area that consistently averages more than a police call a day.
James said the neighborhood always gets a negative image.
But, in the October funding application letter, James calls Stanley Holmes “our most troubled site.”
It has become “synonymous with one of the more drug-infested, crime-ridden areas” in Atlantic City, Jubilee wrote in his accompanying letter.
He called the current system “severely limited.”
From January 2010 through last September, there were 40 shootings in Stanley Holmes, with 24 people struck, three of them fatally.
A quarter of those happened in less than four months of 2012, beginning with a woman shot about 2:30 a.m. April 28. Shortly after 3 p.m. Sept. 6, Jose Ortiz was killed got caught in the cross fire of a gunfight as he rode his bike through a Stanley Holmes courtyard.
The Housing Authority’s funding submission includes an article from The Press on that homicide.
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