When work to transform the former Norlina Town Hall building on Hyco Street into the new Norlina Police Department is complete, one technological feature will stand out — the Townwide Closed Captioned Community Camera System.
Fourteen monitors fill an entire wall, providing a glimpse into how the system will assist the police department in investigations and in locating missing persons.
In March, the Norlina Town Board approved conditions for a $50,000 grant and $150,000 low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development for the purchase of the security cameras.
Last week, Police Chief Keishawn Mayes and Robert Koonts, president/CEO of Building Automation Services, which is installing the cameras, outlined the system’s capabilities.
Koonts noted that the high resolution camera technology connects with the monitors in the new building and the devices that officers carry, meaning that they can access images wherever they are.
While the cameras are being installed in the more highly traveled, busy areas of Norlina, the town’s Surveillance and Protection Policy emphasizes that cameras will not be placed in locations that violate the reasonable expectation of privacy as defined by law.
“The system is in no way intended to target any particular areas or anyone at all, but to maintain an extra sense of security, to be proactive, not reactive,” Mayes previously said.
He echoed that statement last week.
“We won’t be infringing on anyone’s privacy,” Mayes said.
He said that cameras will automatically record 24/7 and upload the images to Cloud technology. If any portion of what is recorded is needed for an investigation or in court, it can be downloaded. That means that officers may never see some of the images that are captured, but they will be available if needed.
The system allows officers to type in key descriptive words such as “yellow shirt” or “blue pants,” and images showing people wearing that type of clothing will pop up.
Mayes said that the same thing is possible with vehicles. If an officer keys in the words, “red truck,” the system will pull up images of red trucks from all cameras.
The system will also enable the police department to search for license plates. However, Mayes said that, again, such searches will be limited to investigations.
“We will not just search license plates. They will have to be related to a crime,” he said.
Mayes described the camera system as being a modern tool to provide round-the-clock protection for Norlina residents with the bonus feature of providing WiFi capability within the range of the camera beam.
Even though camera installation is continuing, the system has already helped in several police cases. Mayes said that images from the cameras have assisted in the recovery of stolen vehicles and in the investigation of a break-in.
He added that the camera system can adapt with technological advances.
“Because it is software based, it is automatically upgraded,” Mayes said.
He noted that each of monitors at the new police station is capable of showing views from multiple cameras through the use of a grid system, meaning that, together, the 14 monitors can show images from around 100 cameras. For Mayes, this will enable more cameras to be added in the future as needed.
He described the camera system as a way to be prepared for the future.
“As leaders and law enforcement agencies, it is important to respond to the needs of the community (before they arise),” Mayes said. “This is definitely one of those things.”