City installing additional cameras

New cameras were installed Wednesday near Pocket Park in downtown Big Rapids. The city currently is installing 30 cameras to add to the 130 in place, which are used by law enforcement and others. (Pioneer photo/Brandon Fountain)

BIG RAPIDS — Residents may have noticed them, or didn’t realize they were even there.

Scattered throughout the city in portions of parks, at certain areas in some parking lots or above some of the busiest intersections, security cameras are affixed catching every second, every detail.

The city currently is installing 30 cameras to add to the 130 already in place, which not only provide an extra level of security, but also help law enforcement in a variety of ways, said Big Rapids Department of Public Safety Director Jim Eddinger.

“There is no question (the cameras) provide a benefit to the community,” he said, noting they have helped solve crimes when there were no other witnesses or when officers needed more details than what witnesses could provide.

Eddinger quickly points to the July 20, 2016, robbery at Fifth Third Bank of how vital security cameras were to the investigation.

“The camera captured the suspect’s vehicle,” he said. “Within a day, we had the suspect’s girlfriend calling us to tell us it was her boyfriend’s vehicle and within 36 hours of the robbery, we had recovered most of the money.”

In three separate criminal sexual conduct cases on the Riverwalk, cameras helped detectives investigate two of the cases, while the third case was found to be not true.

“Having a camera capture what happened allows us to see things and do things, and helps close cases,” he said. “If someone destroys property at Hemlock Park or there’s an accident and someone wants to argue whose light was red, we can look and see exactly what it happened.

“Just like Major League Baseball, we can go back and watch it over and over.”

Eddinger said feeds from the more than 100 cameras are accessible in real time.

“We can access them right from the office and we can see in real time what just happened,” he said. “But, we’re not sitting here looking at the cameras all day. We do look at them when things happen.”

Having access to the cameras for many years, Eddinger said the footage also has helped clarify details, when witnesses were unable to provide accurate descriptions of suspects or validate claims.

“There were times when we had very little to go on for these incidents, but now we can get the description of a suspect, the time of day,” he said. “There are things we can do now that we couldn’t before.

“We’re finding they’re lasting for quite a while and the quality is pretty darn good.”

While privacy may be a concern for many when they see additional cameras installed, Eddinger said officials are well-aware of concerns.

“The cameras are all in the public way and not facing any private buildings,” he said. “They are intentionally positioned to avoid looking inside buildings and businesses. That’s not what they are here for.

“In situations like missing child cases, where it’s invaluable to a parent whose child is missing, we can locate where they were. The cameras would help locate the child quicker rather than having to deal with a tragedy. There’s a real benefit to the community.”

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Posted by Brandon Fountain

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