The Lafayette Police Department soon will be keeping a watchful electronic eye on some city neighborhoods.
The installation of crime cameras could begin this year at 52 locations, mainly areas in north Lafayette selected through a combination of input from the City-Parish Council and a review of crime statistics to pinpoint high-risk neighborhoods, said Police Chief Jim Craft.
“What area has the most need? That’s what we want to look at,” Craft told a council committee Monday in an update of the crime camera program.
The council last year approved the department’s request for $700,000 to buy the cameras and related equipment.
There is an additional recurring expense of about $100,000 a year to keep the system running and for the Internet connections needed to link the cameras to the Police Department.
Other communities have had a mixed experience with crime cameras, some touting them as effective crime-fighting tools and others questioning their value, but Craft said he believes the money will be a wise investment in a tool to extend the reach of the city’s officers.
“We see them as force multiplier,” the chief said.
Councilman Jay Castille agreed.
“We don’t have enough patrol officers out there, and it’s going to help them with some eyes out there,” Castille said.
The cameras will be linked to the department’s headquarters, where computer servers will save footage that can be reviewed for evidence should a crime occur on a street monitored by a camera.
The camera feeds also can be viewed in real time, either at headquarters or from a patrol car.
“Officers will be able to bring the cameras up in their units on their laptops,” Craft said.
In addition to the permanent cameras, he said, the department plans to purchase one mobile camera that can be dispatched to any area of the city where it might be needed.
The department already has a small number of crime cameras in downtown Lafayette, but the new crime camera initiative represents the first deployment of the technology in residential areas.
The city has yet to sign a contract for the new cameras but is now reviewing proposals.
“Hopefully, we will see some operating by this year,” Craft said.
He said if the initial rollout of crime cameras is successful, the program could be expanded.
“We hope that it would,” Craft said.
Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.