ATLANTIC CITY — The Police Department has a message for anyone thinking about committing a crime: You are being watched.
This week, the department will officially debut a multimillion-dollar surveillance system that will help crack down on crime and advance the city’s public-safety initiative as officials try to entice families and potential homeowners to come back and invest in the resort.
“There is going to be a video record of everything that goes on on the Boardwalk, 24 hours a day,” police Chief Henry White said. “If you commit a crime on the Boardwalk, you’re doing it at your own peril.”
The new surveillance center, located in the Atlantic City Public Safety Building, features five 80-inch monitors, four 65-inch monitors, six workstations with four monitors each and a supervisor station with seven monitors.
It was paid for as part of a $12 million loan from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority through the Atlantic County Improvement Authority, according to ACIA Executive Director John Lamey.
The monitors are connected to cameras on the Boardwalk and at Tanger Outlets The Walk. Cameras in casinos also can be added through a system called mutual link. Other businesses and housing complexes can give police permission to access their cameras. The Police Department hopes to have cameras around the entire city in the near future.
But the cameras have a much wider range than just the immediate area. During a tour given to reporters for The Press of Atlantic City, officers used a Boardwalk camera at California Avenue and focused on Atlantic Avenue, two blocks away. The picture remained clear as the officers zoomed in.
The surveillance system is powered by Genetec, a Canadian provider of IP surveillance, and mirrors existing systems in Philadelphia and New York City, Atlantic City Capt. James Sarkos said.
Police officers will have the ability to see the camera feeds from an app on their cellphones and on the laptops inside their cruisers. They can also tap into the electric signs and speakers on the Boardwalk to make announcements, show pictures of missing children and issue rip current warnings, among other things.
City officials say this will be a game-changer in policing and will help keep residents and visitors safe.
“If something should happen on Pacific Avenue, we can rewind and see which direction the person went, what they were wearing and how the crime went down,” Lt. Sean Scanlon said.
Officers manning the surveillance monitors can tell the responding officers what is going on at the scene, leaving out any element of surprise, Scanlon said.
“It gives our police officers the technology to help keep our city safe,” said Mayor Don Guardian, who described the surveillance center as a “bridge to the future.”
The surveillance room will also serve as the police command center during special events. Last summer, police set up their command center in Bally’s Atlantic City for the city’s beach concerts.
CRDA Executive Director Chris Howard said the new facility and surveillance system will help clean up crime across the city.
“This state-of-the-art facility, in conjunction with the new security and crime-prevention cameras strategically placed around the city and CRDA-funded ACPD technology upgrades, will greatly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the city’s police force, creating a safer, cleaner and more attractive destination for families and employers,” Howard said in a statement.
The system is part of project PACT, or Protecting Atlantic City Together, that allows local businesses to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Police Department to connect their privately owned cameras into the Genetec system.
In its first three weeks in operation, the system assisted police in making 14 arrests, Sarkos said. One of the first incidents involved identifying a man who stole a woman’s purse from the Knife and Fork Inn. Another incident involved a camera zooming in on a license plate and identifying the car was reported stolen.
The monitors are being watched by retired police officers while the department trains other officers to watch the system 24 hours a day. To avoid officers getting tired or bored, the department has installed desks that move up and down so officers can sit or stand while watching the city.
“Folks who have different businesses and even homeowners have been coming up to us and asking us to connect to their cameras,” White said. “The whole goal of this thing is to work together with the community to prevent crime.”