(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) In a time where technology continues to advance, change and upgrade, the St. Joseph Police Department said keeping up with the demand can be difficult.
"That's our biggest challenge here is trying to stay ahead of the technology because once you fall behind it, it's too late,” Detective Brendan McGinnis, forensic examiner with SJPD, said.
To stay a step ahead, the department has developed a program that allows a local business or homeowner to give police access to their security cameras and devices. This means, officers have quick and reliable access to surveillance footage all around the city.
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"We tried to find a way to centralize a communication with residents and businesses that we would be able to A, be able to look at a map and know where cameras are for a quick reference and then B, have that quick access to those cameras,” McGinnis said.
While the department does not sit and watch the footage 24/7, the access does give them officers the chance to know where certain cameras are all around St. Joseph, and to be able to pull up live feed from those cameras in a matter of seconds.
“We only look at the cameras when a detective, officer or a citizen complains about something,” McGinnis said. “At that point, then we would come over and look at the video to see if the complaint is valid and then provide those resources to whoever is handling that case.”
When a crime is reported, such as a robbery at a local gas station, the officers can also see the incident taking place after the call comes in.
"We can come in here and in a matter of minutes be able to access that video that's currently up and be able to see if there's actually a robbery going on at that time,” McGinnis said. “It also would allow us to, if it is a legit robbery, I could look at that and say ‘hey, it’s a white male leaving in a black passenger car.’ So, we get that real-time information instead of that five to 10 minute delay.”
Over 60 local businesses and homeowners have utilized the program so far. The St. Joseph School District said they’ve also jumped on board to help keep the buildings a bit safer.
"Anything that helps with the safety and security of our students and our property too, obviously is always helpful,” Robert Sigrist, director of student services at SJSD, said.
The district has surveillance cameras in place at all St. Joseph schools, including roughly 500 - 550 cameras at the high schools alone.
Sigrist said the district will be getting new security cameras thanks to a recently passed tax levy. The cameras will be more advanced and up-to-date.
“Right now we’re in the process of doing an RFP for new cameras at all the high schools,” Sigrist said. “That was a piece of the levy, is that we’re updating all our school security cameras.”
He added that the program has already been beneficial to the district by preventing crimes before they happen, or by catching suspects after the incident.
"We've had incidents where maybe there's been some vandalism or things like that and have been able to share that and help the police be able to take care of an issue like that,” Sigrist said.
The police department will also be upgrading their technology in the near future. McGinnis said SJPD Chief Chris Connally had mentioned the purchase of six new monitors that will go into the surveillance room for live previewing.
For any business or homeowner interested in being a part of the program, contact the St. Joseph Police Department at 271-5316.