The Project NOLA crime camera system is coming to Westwego, where police will be able to monitor live feeds from cameras voluntarily placed on property by local businesses and residents.
That’s a key difference from the network of 1,100 cameras the nonprofit crime abatement program has in place in New Orleans. Those cameras record 10 days of video that often is used to identify suspects and provide other information in solving crimes, but they are not monitored live by police.
Westwego Police Chief Dwayne Munch said the program is another way for residents to work with the police and that, if there is enough participation by property owners, the cameras could help make the city safer.
“If we can get a couple (cameras) on each and every street it would be unbelievable,” he said of his hopes for the program, word of which is only now getting out after a couple of test cameras were installed this summer.
If Westwego becomes known for having crime cameras, Munch said, “it’s just going to deter (criminals) from even wanting to come around.”
Westwego property owners can purchase a high-definition camera from Project NOLA for $295 or sign up their own camera as long as it is compatible with the Project NOLA system. The cameras come with a $9.99 monthly monitoring charge. They are installed on private property but monitor public areas.
Bryan Lagarde, Project NOLA’s executive director, said the New Orleans Police Department didn’t have the manpower to monitor the cameras live so the New Orleans system doesn’t have that capability.
Westwego, however, wanted to give an officer the ability to monitor the live feed from cameras, and Lagarde said he is interested in seeing how that capability enhances the service.
Lagarde said Project NOLA also is working with law enforcement entities in four Louisiana parishes, but he would not name them because they have not made their involvement public. He said the group has gotten interest from other states and other countries and is always looking for more partners.
Westwego, like New Orleans, will be able to keep only about 10 days worth of footage in its system, a limitation Lagarde said is determined by the amount of storage space in the system.
Footage from cameras in the French Quarter and Central Business District is kept for a few weeks at the request of the Department of Homeland Security because of concerns about terrorism, he said.
In Westwego, Munch has often cited public involvement as a key to keeping the city safe, and he said the department plans to distribute fliers about the camera program to get as many participants as possible.
“The city is safer when you work together with the community, and this is just a great program,” he said.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.