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More eyes in the sky

Sky Cops proven to deter, help solve crimes

Stories of Sky Cops success eliminating crime and identifying the bad guys has organizations lining up at the door of the West Memphis Police Foundation to fund cameras to watch over their buildings and surroundings. Chief Donald Oakes told city council he expected as many as fifty cameras in service in the city by the end of 2018.

According to the Oakes, surveillance drastically curtails criminal activity. Demand for the cameras continued to rise. The city started with a handful of cameras last year and entered the year with the Advertising and Promotions Commission providing seed money for more eyes in the sky in tourist areas around hotels and restaurants. Then the housing authority sprung for three more pole mounted cameras. Now private apartment complexes have heard the good results and have approached police about getting some placed around buildings.

The pole-mounted cameras cost $6,500 each. The utility department mounts each box with a simple bracket and the Sky Cop Company works out the aim on each lens. Multiple cameras cover a wide field of view. License plate numbers can be blown up and become legible to police at great distances when looking for get away vehicles.

Southland Park Gaming & Racing funded 10 Sky Cops for West Memphis School District campuses.

“Those cameras have been ordered and will be up as soon as we get them,” said Oakes.

The top cop pointed to the growing popularity of the surveillance boxes marked with blue lights and the explained how the police foundation served as a pipeline for funding the cameras. Police placed nine cameras in the first half of August alone.

“Three in parks, three on Broadway, and three in the housing authority” said Oakes. “Several apartment complexes have put money into our foundation and we buy them through the foundation.

I expect close to 50

by the end of the year.”

Businesses and organizations may donate and designate funds for a camera in their area. Oakes said interest is up because the cameras work.

“They have paid for themselves repeatedly,” said Oakes. “We have pulled evidence in three homicides this year. Locations that have been historically problematic, like Walker Street Grocery, nothing has happened since the Sky Cop went up. We had a lot of problems at Ingram and Barton. It has made a difference with school and traffic behavior. People behave better when they are on video. It protects kids and helps with school traffic Oakes listed another five apartment complexes talking to the police about getting the police monitored surveillance.

The chief said cameras impacted crime reduction.

“We will get big returns for that,” said Oaks. “There is just no doubts. It’s relatively cheap and people are buying them.”

It’s not all private donations driving Sky Cop placement.

“Steeple Chase, where we’ve had shootings this year has ordered one and we are placing an additional one with our own funding at Goodwin and DeAunte Farrow because of two events there.”

Council Woman Ramona Taylor reported more positive feedback every time a camera light started flashing.

“People feel good about it at community meetings,” said Taylor.

“People want these,” said Oakes.

By John Rech