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Atlantic City police, security company talk camera-sharing program

  • 3 min to read

ATLANTIC CITY — Since buying Gem Liquor Store at Atlantic and North Indiana avenues last month, Dharam Patel has put in a half-dozen security cameras, but he said he still needs to install more outside to watch for loitering and other illicit behavior on the street.

He had no idea that just a few days earlier city police hosted a breakfast with business owners like him about tapping into their surveillance camera feeds in real time.

It’s a partnership between the owners and law enforcement that police have been working on for two years through social media and community meetings, saying it will increase security, reduce response times and create a safer environment for customers.

“I understand why the police would want to do something like that, but you have to get the people together,” Patel said, explaining that, like in many places, there is a gap between law enforcement and business owners in the resort that needs to be bridged with effort from both sides.

Several resort business owners said the camera-sharing program — Project PACT, or Protecting Atlantic City Together — helps deter crime. And experts say surveillance cameras get results when it comes to investigations. But it only works if businesses know about it and get involved.

“Business owners need to take the initiative,” Patel said. “It’s good to be involved. Then tourists can come here and feel comfortable walking down the street.”

Currently, Tanger Outlets The Walk, Bass Pro Shops, Stockton University and the city’s Housing Authority contribute part of the approximately 1,500 total city- and privately owned cameras retired police officers virtually patrol in the Atlantic City Headquarters for Intelligence Logistics Electronic Surveillance, or ACHILES, Deputy Chief James Sarkos said. About 22 resort businesses are part of Project PACT.

The cost for the business owners varies based on the type of cameras they want, but the police do not charge anything to be part of the program. To get Genetec, the same system city police use, costs range depending on how many cameras are included, from $369 for three to $449 for four. Both packages carry a monthly fee of $160 and $199 for internet storage and service, respectively, according to the company’s pricing sheet.

Atlantic City Crime Data 2

Year Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 Nonviolent Crime Rate per 1,000 Murder
1990 38.1 372.6 14
1989 34.5 397.8 15
1991 38.0 366.7 15
1992 34.1 325.6 8
1993 35.4 279.0 11
1994 28.0 227.6 9
1995 26.5 263.8 15
1996 24.3 263.1 11
1997 22.1 255.6 12
1998 18.5 219.9 14
1999 16.8 221.5 5
2000 13.4 172.5 11
2001 15.5 163.9 7
2002 18.5 137.4 5
2003 15.5 134.5 5
2004 17.5 125.8 5
2005 19.0 121.6 9
2006 20.4 112.3 18
2007 22.2 96.6 7
2008 16.9 73.8 11
2009 21.3 83.0 11
2010 20.7 89.8 11
2011 17.5 80.3 13
2012 17.9 75.6 18
2013 17.7 74.7 3
2014 13.7 73.9 6
2015 15.9 75.6 7
2016 12.5 58.8 12

“We feel that it gives a feeling of comfort to their patrons,” Sarkos said. “And, if there happens to be a call for service, we would have real, live, situational awareness of what’s happening, allowing us to give an appropriate response.”

City police were inspired by Detroit’s Project Green Light, another camera-sharing program that started in 2016 and recently signed its 500th partner. The Michigan city has seen a 23 percent year-to-date decrease in violent crime at the sites that participate, according to the department’s website.

Detroit police did not respond to a request for comment.

Police here have been advertising the program for two years through social media, community meetings and even having officers go into stores. During a breakfast this month at the Gilchrist restaurant at Tropicana Atlantic City, police partnered with Supreme Security Systems and Genetec to educate business owners about the project, but only one showed up.

Anthony Mack, owner of the McDonald’s on South Arkansas Avenue, said he didn’t know about the program but was interested in learning about it.

Although he has security cameras all over the property to watch for loiterers, drug use, petty theft and panhandlers, he said having the police watching would be an added benefit.

J.C. Lore, a clinical professor of law at Rutgers Law School in Camden, said cameras work as a deterrent for crime as well as an investigatory tool for police.

“Cameras are efficient, in terms of not requiring boots on the street, and they create generally reliable information, or evidence, so they are effective law-enforcement tools,” Lore said. “Police get an advantage in aiding their investigation.”

Jeff Price, the property manager of Renaissance Plaza at Atlantic and North Kentucky avenues, said Friday he is in the process of signing up for Project PACT.

“We think this is a fantastic concept and a fantastic idea,” he said. “It displays just how much the city officials really want to do everything they can to make Atlantic City a great place to be, and we are actively reviewing the proposals in order to implement it at our property.”

Price said he hopes the cameras work as a deterrent, which would in turn reduce crime in the area.

“And if you reduce crime, you reduce arrests and you reduce costs,” Price said. “It can have a very, very good domino effect in the right direction.”

Contact: 609-272-7241 Twitter @ACPressMollyB

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