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Jersey City News

COMMUNITY CAMERAS TARGET VIOLATIONS

This article was featured in JCPD "Jersey City Watch" Newsletter by Deputy Director Arthur W. Pease

Jersey City is in the forefront of having large numbers of closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) protect businesses and the community from violations ranging from crimes and disorderly persons acts to traffic violations, petty disorderly acts and quality of life issues. The system will also notify the proper agency in case of fires and medical emergencies.

Digital CCTV cameras provide surveillance on Central Avenue and throughout Jersey City. Quality of life issues such as drinking, drugs, large gatherings, fights, graffiti and illegal dumping are very important issues that must be targeted to protect the sanity of a community. Phase One of the CCTV system was funded in October 1999. The Jersey City Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC) received Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) funding to initiate this phase. The original grant planned for the installation of a 120-130 camera system. This total number was to be reached in stages and would depend on the outcome of the initial phase. Phase One called for the installation of 21 color cameras and support equipment. The system has been operable since May 2001 and has proved very successful as a deterrent and recorder of criminal and disorderly activities. Video from the system has been used in the courts as evidence to convict those individuals who have broken the law.

Phase Two was funded in June 2003 and the ground breaking was in September 2004. This phase was also UEZ financed through the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and became fully operational in May of 2005. The beginning of this phase was the installation of two fiber optic cables, which were buried and ran from North Street along Central Avenue to Bidwell Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive. Verizon was initially used to carry the video signal from the cameras to the control room, now the City of Jersey City would have its own fiber optic cables in the ground. Verizon is still being used by the system in linking the control room to the police radio room. The length of this fiber trunk line is approximately 34,000 linear feet. These cables are composed of three micro fiber
cables of 96 strands each. Fifty pan-tilt-zoom color cameras, fifty camera poles, digital video recorders and computer equipment were also included in the system installation.

Camera poles had to be installed at selected sites and wired into the fiber optic cable and underground electric supply vaults. The original analog system was upgraded to a digital system, the cameras upgraded as well. The additional cameras were also installed in UEZ and SID (Special Improvement District) areas of the city.

To obtain the confidence and approval of the public a group called The Civilian Oversight Committee was formed. This committee is a group of community individuals who meet with the Jersey City CCTV Managers and the Security System Supervisors assigned to supervise the operation. They are apprised of any changes in the system, events that have occurred that the cameras have recorded and/or reported and arrests made with the assistance of video recorded by the system cameras. They also make sure that community privacy controls are operating and followed.

The CCTV manager and Police manager make sure that the civilian operators follow all rules and regulations and the code of practice that has been adopted for the CCTV Unit by the Jersey City Police Department, EDC Manager and the Civilian Oversight Committee. The cameras are only able to observe that which a police officer or private citizen could legally observe. There must be a sign at all camera locations warning the public that the cameras are there. Also computer software imbedded in the system provides for community privacy and security. This software prevents operators from perusing into private areas of the community such as windows and backyards of private homes. All camera operators, supervisors and visitors who enter the CCTV control room are recorded on tape.

The Control Room, located on Central Avenue, is operated twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This room is staffed by civilian Security Systems Operators and Security Systems Supervisors. Thirty-three LCD 20 inch monitors are mounted on a large console facing the operators. There are four LCD 15 inch monitors on each of the three operator work stations and four LCD 15 inch monitors on the supervisors work station. There is also a large 60 inch monitor in the center of the 33 monitors where a picture or pictures from any camera in the system can be relayed for enhanced visibility. There is an adjacent Conference Room which contains a large projection screen monitor for viewing recorded video from the color cameras. The system has a number of Quad Display Units which allow the monitors to show one full picture from a camera site or split the video into four pictures
from four different camera sites. The digital video recording system records all the cameras twenty four hours, seven days a week at 15 feet per second and 30 feet per second. This recording system is able to archive all images for a ninety day period. All the cameras in the system are of the pan-tilt -zoom variety and the Security Camera Operators can control each camera from their keyboards. These keyboards have joysticks and the proper interface for controlling the camera functions manually. All the operators have been trained in the operation of the equipment and how to recognize suspicious activities, viewed by the cameras. The live activity of any on camera event of a criminal nature can be sent to the Jersey City Police Department Radio Room. Here it can be determined if any police response is warranted.

The CCTV manager reviews all videotapes of major events and incidents that have occurred during a 24 hour period. Also reviewed are the actions and reports of the Security Operators on the different shifts. The Hudson County Prosecutor requires that all video recordings must be kept for at least 90 days. Reports left by the Security Camera personnel help the police department in the deployment of police officers and notifications to the community and businesses of any precautions recommended as it relates to any ongoing sensitive situations in their locales.

Phase Three, which will add more cameras to the system, is now in the planning stage. This
phase will install 94 more cameras in crime sensitive areas of the city to protect businesses and the community. The Jersey City Police Department has also received grant money to install cameras in other areas of the city. At present plans are being developed to place cameras in Montgomery Gardens and Booker T. Washington housing complexes. Another part of this plan includes the installation of cameras, Bayside Park, Richard Street, Bayside Park Drive, Bayside Terrace and the Light Rail area. The system has proven very successful and many community groups are requesting more cameras for their neighborhoods. Jersey City has proven itself in the forefront of protecting its residential and commercial communities.