The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has a new pair of eyes in the sky. Sheriff Ron Pierini introduced his office’s newest piece of technology, a pair of high-tech surveillance cameras mounted on a trailer, at the American Century Championship Wednesday.
“It’s something we came up with after the events in Boston,” Pierini said. “It’s something we want to use for two reasons, as a deterrent and to solve crimes.”
Each trailer system consists of two cameras mounted on a boom that rises more than 30 feet into the air. A digital video recorder stores the video and a solar panel and battery or a plug-in powers the operation. Each camera can swivel in 360 degrees in any direction and each has a 30 times optical zoom.
The system is ideal for monitoring crowded public events like New Years Eve or Fourth of July, Pierini said.
“Any public event, we plan to put it out,” said undersheriff Paul Howell.
As with any new technology, there will be a learning curve to figure out the optimal way to deploy the device, said deputy sheriff Rod Gincchio, who is charged with setting up the cameras.
“It’s going to take us some time,” Pierini said. “But eventually we’re going to be right on target.”
There’s also the privacy concern. Sheriffs using cameras have to be wary of intruding on individuals’ rights to privacy. In other words, they cannot aim the camera at private property without permission, Pierini said. But using it in a public place is another story, he added.
“It’s made for public deployment where the rights of privacy have been well established,” Pierini said. “We can’t put it somewhere where we’d need a search warrant. I don’t see it ever being used outside the public arena.”
Cities like Minneapolis have used the cameras in high-crime areas and have seen improvement. Pierini said he’s been in touch with various police departments that also have the technology to talk about best practices. Sometimes, departments will deploy the cameras for years at a time, downloading the video wirelessly, he said.
Each camera system costs $40,000. The sheriff’s office used drug seizure money and funding from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Advisory Council to pay for the technology.
As the system typically isn’t manned after it is deployed, developers added a safety function to keep it safe from vandals. If someone tampers with the locked box containing the digital video recorder and the battery, the cameras automatically flip down and take photos of the culprit.
“When this thing detects motion or if someone bumps it, it’s going to let us know,” Pierini said.