CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Clearwater Police Department is turning to high tech upgrades to keep you safe.
Within the next three months, the department will open a real-time crime center allowing detectives to watch dozens of live camera feeds at the same time and from across town.
Sarah Bellomy is happy to hear about the new technology. She has watched as downtown Clearwater and Clearwater Beach grow, bringing in crowds to her Downtown Pizza shop.
“Especially lately, it seems like business is growing, more businesses are coming in, and the safety of everyone is what’s most important,” she explained.
Soon, detectives will have top-of-the-line technology connecting them virtually to any crime scene or big event.
Daniel Slaughter, Clearwater’s Chief of Police says the technology will be among the most advanced within police stations in Tampa Bay.
“This will allow us to maybe see some things a little bit in advance, so our officers aren’t necessarily going in blind,” he said.
Here’s how it works: When a 911 call comes in, detectives have an option to pull up a map showing them nearby camera feeds to that location. The $326,000 technology is also expected to help with surveillance of big events like concerts at Coachman Park or Spring Break.
It can also track suspects on the move using traffic cameras and license plate readers.
“You can identify a person you’re looking for and it will show you what video cameras he’s on so you can find them much quicker as opposed to watching hours of feed to figure that out and by then it’s too late,” Slaughter elaborated.
At first, officers will have access to government-owned cameras, including those at parks, the library, Clearwater Beach, Pier 60, government offices, etc. Next, they hope to ask local businesses to tap into their surveillance systems as well.
Bellomy says she would welcome that.
“We have cameras in the back parking lot and out front. They can use all of them! The safer, the better,” she exclaimed.
Yet with the new technology, comes potential privacy issues.
Chelsea McKee, a Clearwater resident of four years, says it somewhat concerns her, but she believes safety should be paramount.
“It’s like big brother is watching you, but it’s for a purpose,” she said. “People are going to have some push back, but just let them know it’s for the greater good and our community in Clearwater.”
Clearwater officers will attend a conference in late March, brainstorming ways to protect the privacy of citizens and visitors with law enforcement leaders statewide.
They’re also looking for guidance from a handful of other agencies already using the technology.
“We want to make sure that we’re not invading anyone's privacy, and we need to make sure we are approaching this the right way,” Slaughter said.
The real-time crime center should be up and running this June.