In the fight against crime, it never hurts to have more eyes. In this case, the all-seeing eyes of high-definition camera systems linked directly to police headquarters.
Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall is looking at bringing a crime-fighting strategy known as Project Green Light, pioneered by her former department in Detroit, to Dallas.
The way it works: Businesses pay to lease high-definition cameras. Live footage from the stores is sent to the department's real-time crime center, where it's monitored. Detroit police partnered with major technology companies like Comcast so businesses can lease the cameras at a reasonable cost.
“The bad guys know they’re being watched,” Chief Hall told WFAA. “They know that we can see their actions.”
The program, which started in early 2016, was the brainchild of Detroit Police Chief James Craig. It's targeted toward businesses, mostly gas stations, open after 10 p.m. The department chose those types of businesses because they found much of the crime was occurring in and around those locations.
Flashing green lights and signage let people know they're under a watchful eye.
“We have actually had individuals walk into or attempt to walk into a business, probably to commit a crime, and they see the sign and they've walked away,” says Detroit PD Precinct Commander Nick Giaquinto.
Last week Giaquinto, also Detroit’s former IT team commander, was in Dallas analyzing what it would take to adapt Green Light. He says from what he saw, it's completely doable for Dallas to do something similar.
Giaquinto said Detroit saw a 50 percent reduction in and around its 100-plus participating locations. It also has dramatically improved the investigations since high-quality video is available before officers even arrive on scene.
“The clarity of the cameras is such that it looks like you’re taking a selfie,” Hall said.
Inside Detroit’s real-time crime center, analysts can pull up video feeds from participating locations in seconds. Whenever calls occur in or near a Green Light location, the center is alerted.
“If we see something in real-time, we can stop it in real-time,” says Adam Forman, an analyst at the center. “We don’t need to be just reactive. We can be proactive.”
Dallas already has cameras posted throughout the city that are monitored by police, but a program like Green Light would take it to a whole new level.
“I think it's a fantastic idea,” Lance Peterson, owner of the Shop N Go in South Dallas, said. “How could it be a negative?”
Dallas City Councilman Kevin Felder has a candidate for the program: A known trouble spot called Little World on Malcolm X Boulevard.
“We have to have cooperation from the convenience store owners and business owners in order to be successful in fighting crime,” Felder said.
At Felder’s request, the department recently placed mobile surveillance cameras near the store. Things have improved since then, although he questions why the store needs to be open 24 hours a day.
“We have put the owner of this store on notice that he’s being watched and that we expect better cooperation from him, and we expect the criminal activity to decrease or we will take action,” Felder said.
The store manager declined to comment to WFAA.