Atlantic City police have eyes on the city from new surveillance center
Inside a room filled with monitors, retired Atlantic City Patrolman John Loughney is once again patrolling the city. Loughney is one of nine veteran officers who has returned to work as a Special Law Enforcement Officer, of SLEO, working an hourly rate without benefits to once again watch over the city. The $12 million system funded through the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority lets the officers link into cameras throughout, that includes private cameras that they have been granted access to, including troubled areas like Brigantine Homes in the Back Maryland section and businesses along Atlantic Avenue. The department also can access casino cameras through the MutuaLink system that has been in place for a few years. “The response from the community has been great,” Capt. James Sarkos said. “So far, we haven’t asked a place that’s denied it.” That means, if there’s a crime in one spot, and the suspect is seen fleeing, police can follow the escape path even if the cameras capturing it don’t belong to the city. Project PACT, or Protect Atlantic City Together, is based on Detroit’s Project Green Light, which began in January 2016, with eight gas stations installing high-definitions cameras that were fully accessible to the Detroit Police Department. Atlantic City’s surveillance room doesn’t just have scenes of the city playing on its monitors. The officers can also see tips coming in in real time from the tip411 system. The system allows anyone to anonymously text the police at tip411 — 847411 — and give a tip by beginning the message with ACPD. The system gives an alert sound when a tip comes in, so the officers can respond immediately. The ShotSpotter audio gunshot-detection system also comes into the center. When the officers hear the notification of a gunshot, they can zoom into the area, look for victims, possible suspects and go back in time to what was captured before a shot was fired, Lt. Sean Scanlon explained. For a city that once lagged far behind in technology, it’s a huge step forward, but not the finishing line. the police chief explained as he and project leaders Sarkos and Scanlon talked about the system. The meeting room has glass walls that can look in on the center, but shades also come down to allow privacy for meetings, and a projection screen. “This is just the starting point,” Chief Henry White told BreakingAC. When Brown’s Park reopens Memorial Day weekend, there will be cameras there as well in hopes of keeping the cleaned up park safe. The 158 cameras on the Boardwalk — including 60 with pan and zoom features — will help with the beach concerts, Air Show and Miss America Parade. Police will also be able to use the monitors on the Boardwalk and audio system to make announcements like missing children, a common problem during the Air Show. “It’s not usually the kids that get lost, it’s the parents,” Sgt. Kevin Fair said. “We usually have the kids.” And this year, rather than needing to get space at a spot with eyes on the Boardwalk, the department will already have them inside their own home base, with their own wireless network, meaning the hiccups that attendees may have with service won’t affect the police. They also won’t need to borrow the portable cameras Homeland Security and others previously provided the city for events like the parade. The surveillance room is also staffed by those on light duty who may be returning from injury or other issues. So, instead of doing desk duty and paperwork, they are on virtual patrol. In addition to the CRDA money, the nonprofit Atlantic City Police Foundation paid for a small kitchen, the signage and four 65-inch monitors.