Surveillance cameras to help secure Essence Music Festival - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Surveillance cameras to help secure Essence Music Festival

New Orleans, La. -

Hundreds of security cameras will be keeping a constant watch as thousands of visitors fill the streets across downtown New Orleans for this week's Essence Music Festival.

According to the NOPD, surveillance images are playing a bigger role than ever before, when it comes to helping police tackle crime across the downtown area.

"We've had several burglaries as well as robberies. We also had a shooting on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras season. And through the safe camera system, we were able to solve that crime and bring those [suspects] to justice," said NOPD 8th District Sgt. Ernest Luster. "It has increased our solvability rate with crimes.

Often times, however, officers run into problems actually getting access to the footage. That's why two prominent downtown groups want camera owners to join a growing surveillance network, known as SafeCams8.

"This initiative allows the police to keep track of who has cameras and be able to access them much more easily than going door to door, incident to incident," said business owner Robert Watters, who also serves as French Quarter Management District chairman.

The program is simple: property owners register their cameras, adding their addresses to a database that the NOPD can access in the event of a crime in the area.

Watters said the push to add more cameras to the network is well underway. "We would like to get as much of the French Quarter solidly covered, to be able to identify areas where there aren't cameras, and encourage people to put them in and get complete coverage of the quarter," Watters said.

Downtown Development District CEO Kurt Weigle hopes the program will help not only to solve crimes, but also to make criminals think twice before acting.

"Criminals tend to commit crimes in strings and we think if we can catch them on one of the early ones, maybe we can put them out of business, so they don't do two, three, four, or five of these things," Weigle said.

This week, the NOPD will once again count on this growing web of surveillance to help them beef up security for Essence Fest.

"We have large groups of people who will be out enjoying the festivities and we want to keep them safe. And the cameras help us, as well as help deter those would-be criminals who will come to cause problems in the district," Sgt. Luster said.

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