Pineville Police Department Chief Rob Merchant and former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph were busy last week discussing where next to install security cameras in town.
The program, which Pineville is working on with Pendergraph’s WildFire Camera Networks business, will help alleviate the strain on Merchant’s forces while hopefully giving residents peace of mind when enjoying the park and other areas of town, the chief said. There currently are six cameras operating in town, with more on the way.
Merchant would like to get “as many (cameras) as possible” located throughout town, he said. “I think the more the better.”
Similar camera systems are growing in popularity as police departments and other organizations look for ways to be in more locations at once. WildFire’s system, which Merchant referred to as a “force multiplier,” will benefit the Pineville Police Department’s 38 sworn officers as they deal with the large daytime population increase in town due to the commercial district and commuters passing through, Merchant said.
The Lake Park cameras are all visible, Merchant added, including one located in the Belle Johnston Community Center, and he said there should be no concern of an invasion of privacy on the behalf of residents or people using the park.
“It’s a matter of public safety,” Merchant said. “For people to feel safe they may have to give up some privacy” now and then.
The cameras feed back to a monitor in the department’s 911 call center, where officers can rewind the footage for information after a crime has occurred, or spot a crime in action if someone is viewing the monitor at the time. Officers also can view the feed on laptops in their patrol vehicles, which could help them pinpoint a suspect near the scene following an incident.
The cameras can be of use to the department during Lake Park’s busy event season, where hundreds of residents gather at one time, or even at night – thanks to an infrared camera located there, Pendergraph pointed out. A call box also has been installed with a direct line to the police station and an additional camera so police can see what’s happening during the call.
The end result, Merchant hopes, is to see area businesses jump on board with the system and have their own cameras installed through WildFire, which could be connected to the police department’s system.