LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Police Department is exploring options for a $1.4 million neighborhood crime camera system expected to be in operation by 2016.
It’s unclear which neighborhoods will go under surveillance, but the project has been touted by the department as a cost-efficient way to keep tabs on about 50 high-crime areas in Districts 3 and 4 without hiring additional officers.
“Ideally, we want the majority of the cameras to go in those areas where we feel public safety is a quality-of-life issue that’s greater than other parts of the city,” Lafayette police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council approved $700,000 for the cameras in the department’s 2014-15 capital budget, which will cover the system’s initial purchase. Another $700,000 will require council approval during the next budget session to complete the installation, Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said.
Once a system is selected, the council also will have to approve recurring costs, like security provisions, servers, digital storage and LUS Fiber connectivity, Mouton said.
The department will be charged commercial fiber rates, Lafayette Utilities System Director Terry Huval said. He did not estimate how much that could cost, citing the prices as “commercially sensitive marketing information.”
Through the fiber network, officers both at the Police Department and inside their vehicles will be able to access real-time camera footage, Mouton said. Officers also will be able to access recorded footage, though it’s unclear at this point how long that footage will be stored.
“Each system is going to be looked at individually to determine which vendors can offer what kind of storage at what price,” Mouton said.
The department will put a policy in place that determines which officers have access to what footage, Mouton said.
Some of the possible capabilities of the future camera system were revealed during the June 19 meeting of the Downtown Development Authority.
Police Chief Jim Craft, Detective Brad Robin and District 3 Councilman Brandon Shelvin gave a presentation on the camera systems in efforts to glean funds from DDA and Festival International de Louisiane for a separate downtown system, according to DDA’s audio recording of the meeting.
Robin spelled out a $300,000 plan — Shelvin called it “the Cadillac plan” — for 16 camera stations, each with four fixed cameras and a single camera with panning, tilting and zooming capabilities. The proposal also includes license-plate readers, which would be built into 10 of the stations. They would operate from within one of the fixed cameras but would operate on different software.
“You’re seeing more and more departments going to this type of — I don’t want to call it surveillance, but it is,” Robin told the DDA.
Downtown already has some security cameras in place, but the image quality is “like looking at an old VHS tape,” Robin said.
And some of the cameras are obstructed by trees and poor lighting.
“We’re probably at some point going to have to address that issue, because you have some areas of darkness where you can’t see anything,” Craft said at the meeting.
The proposal for new downtown cameras is on hold for now, Nathan Norris, chief executive officer of the DDA, said Friday.
“The general consensus at the time was we’d still look at it, but we wanted to see how the program worked in the neighborhoods first,” Norris said.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook.