By Shaddi Abusaid
Source The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta police say new surveillance technology helped lead to a quick arrest in the killing of a 6-month-old boy who was shot in his car seat Monday during a gun battle outside a store.
Now, the department hopes its new camera integration system will transform the way investigators solve crimes — and possibly deter some people from committing them in the first place.
Connect Atlanta, a network of more than 4,500 surveillance cameras from across the city, will allow officers to pull up footage on their cellphones and laptops from inside their squad cars, before they even get to a scene, the department said Wednesday.
Police Chief Rodney Bryant said the surveillance program will save officers precious time when it comes to gathering evidence and ultimately making arrests.
Last fall, the department partnered with Peachtree Corners-based tech company Fusus for new software that allows police to access and share camera feeds in real time. The department already receives thousands of camera feeds from street corners and businesses into its video integration center, but accessing that footage quickly can be difficult and time-consuming, officials said.
"We're moving from a video integration center to a real-time crime center," said Bryant, who hopes the new technology will make his officers "much more proactive" when it comes to addressing Atlanta's spike in crime.
Bryant said the new system led to an arrest in the shooting of 6-month-old Grayson Matthew Fleming-Gray, who died Monday after being caught in the crossfire during a shootout.
Both Bryant and Mayor Andre Dickens responded to the scene, holding a news conference in the street not far from where the baby was shot in front of his mother. They called the shooting tragic and vowed to find those responsible.
The next morning, police released surveillance footage of a suspect's SUV, and by Tuesday afternoon, a 22-year-old was behind bars on a murder charge, officials announced.
"We were able to get information to our investigators much quicker than we would have generally," Bryant said.
Atlanta's businesses and homeowners can register their cameras with the department free of charge. For a fee, they can integrate their surveillance systems, giving police immediate access to their recordings, said Deputy Chief Michael O'Connor.
Busy destinations such as Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Lenox Square are already integrated into the network, he said. The cost of integrating surveillance footage depends on the number of cameras and how long the data is stored.
O'Connor said one challenge the department faced in the past was that people use different camera systems. The new software, he said, compiles those surveillance feeds into one place regardless of where a camera was purchased.
"We can literally integrate any type of camera that anybody owns," O'Connor said. "We've been successful in getting private entities to share their cameras with us ... and we expect this is going to be a very robust system in a very short amount of time."
By next year, O'Connor estimates the number of Atlanta businesses sharing their camera feeds with police will reach at least 30,000.
"What would have taken going out, knocking on doors and requesting that kind of video can be done within seconds," he said.
If something happens in a specific neighborhood, investigators will be able to reach out to registered homeowners right away and request their footage, O'Connor said.
"It's connected to our dispatch so that gives us the proactive ability to immediately see the cameras related to calls as they come in and relay that information to officers," he said. "That's going to be a game changer for us."
Fusus CEO Chris Lindenau said the company was started in June 2019. The system is already in place in 85 communities across the nation, he said, including Minneapolis and Orlando.
The integration system was funded by the Atlanta Police Foundation and will not cost the city anything, according to Chief Operating Officer Marshall Freeman. He declined to provide the specific cost.
O'Connor said he's hopeful the new system can eventually help deter crime across the city.
"It's not going to be tomorrow. It may not even be next year. But over time it's going to be so hard to do anything where you're not seen by one of these surveillance systems," he said. "It's getting harder and harder to do something and get away with it."
Those wishing to register their cameras can do so at www.connectatlanta.org.
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