New Orleans crime cameras get a name as groups plan surveillance expansion and residents speak out_lowres

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s first citywide budget calls for the elimination of 20 traffic cameras in 2019, stripping down the network of red-light cameras at intersections throughout the city down to 11.

The budget also proposes the installation of more than 100 surveillance cameras, 10 in each New Orleans City Council district as well as 71 along the Lafitte Greenway. Those cameras would feed into the city’s Real-Time Crime Center, the law enforcement hub at the edge of the French Quarter that is accessed by the New Orleans Police Department, Louisiana State Police and other state and federal agencies.

The budget also proposes 60 additional license plate reader cameras.

The New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation’s SafeCam NOLA program, which allows residents to register their cameras with NOPD, recently launched its “platinum” program that connects cameras to the Real-Time Crime Center. The program debuted in October, and its public launch is among 2019 budget priorities with the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, along with the other surveillance camera expansions.

Cantrell plans to “phase out” 20 of 31 traffic cameras that aren’t within school zones, and the administration will eliminate camera enforcement in school zones outside school hours. There roughly are 80 school zone cameras throughout the city.

New Orleans CAO Gilbert Montano says the city could expect to see a drop of $4 to $6 million from camera ticket revenue with the camera closures.

The proposal follows the New Orleans City Council’s recent transfer of $100,000 to the Office of Homeland Security to install cameras in Gentilly, where they’re fed into the Real-Time Crime Monitoring Center. Cantrell requested the transfer as part of the Gentilly Development District’s “crime camera program.”

“Crime cameras” were part of a massive law enforcement overhaul from former Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration, which installed dozens of cameras in “hotspots” and proposed bars and restaurants that serve alcohol be mandated to install cameras that stream to the city’s real-time feed. The administration later tabled that plan.

In June, the City Council renamed the new cameras “Quality and Neighborhood Safety Cameras,” and the NOLA Partnership for Public Safety and Peace — a group of business and faith leaders — also debuted a plan to expand the privately owned network of ProjectNOLA cameras by adding an additional 300 cameras outside participating churches and businesses. ProjectNOLA’s network includes more than 2,000 cameras.

CleanUpNOLA, the recently launched citywide multi-agency effort, also earmarks $70,000 to install 10 surveillance cameras in several “repetitive illegal dumping locations that the [Department of Sanitation] identified,” a City Hall spokesperson told Gambit last month. That funding request is reflected in the 2019 budget, they said.

Removing traffic cameras will likely put more law enforcement on the streets, Cantrell said. NOPD’s budget outline also includes “Third Party Traffic Management to relieve burden from patrol officers having to arrive for minor accidents.”