APD looks to expand surveillance camera system

APD looks to expand surveillance camera system

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Video is without a doubt playing a huge role in the Boston Marathon explosion investigation. As all of this is unfolding, Austin police are preparing to go to city council to get approval to expand the department's surveillance camera system.

In the wake of the bombing, the Austin Regional Intelligence Center is operating around the clock. Analysts are filtering confidential information out of Boston hoping to develop the next lead. Much of the focus is on video evidence from the marathon route.

"This is going to show how important [surveillance] systems like this are," said APD Assistant Chief David Carter.

It's an argument that will likely benefit APD officers as they go before the city council to request as many as ten additional surveillance cameras. The majority are planned for downtown.

This is just the beginning, as officers are also looking into more intelligent software that would link the camera system to 9-1-1 dispatch.

"Like if there were a call for a robbery on 6th Street for example, the [communication] system, without the officer having to move the camera system, it automatically tracks the location and moves cameras to face that way. And see if we can capture," Carter said.

Technology also exists that would alert officers to an unattended bag.

Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project does not support an expansion of the surveillance system.

"I think we have to be really careful that we don't use events that happen however tragic as a pretext for government to expand its power and we've seen that happen after the 9/11 attacks for example the huge expansion for the government to expand its surveillance power. In a democracy like ours there's always a balance between safety and individual rights," Harrington said.

"The incident in Boston clearly demonstrates the value whether they've actually solved the crime today or in the future those cameras will be part of the solution," Carter said.

The company that APD currently uses for the surveillance cameras has the technology to follow suspects or alert on suspicious bags, but it will likely be a while before we see that here.

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