by Dennis Dalman
Sartell will soon have a series of eight traffic security cameras mounted on the top of poles strategically placed on some of the main ingress-egress roadways of the city. Another camera, a ninth one, will have mobile capabilities.
The city council approved purchasing the camera system at its last meeting after a presentation by Sartell Police Chief Brandon Silgjord.
The cameras will be owned, installed and maintained by a company named Flock Safety, based in Atlanta, Ga. That company has installed more than 3,000 such systems in cities throughout the nation.
It will cost Sartell $29,050 for the cameras in the first year (the cost includes installation) and $24,500 per year thereafter.
The video cameras will be able to “view” the back end of every vehicle that passes under them, including the rear license plate, as well as the vehicle’s color, make and model.
Silgjord said the camera system would be “an invaluable tool in solving crimes and preventing them in the future.”
The cameras could identify vehicles that had been reported stolen or ones whose drivers/occupants had been involved in a wide range of crimes, including abductions, armed robberies, felony warrants, hits-and-run and other kinds of crimes and mayhem. Such vehicles could be identified via the cameras, even if the crimes took place in other cities if information about those vehicles is plugged into the camera system’s data-base (or “hot list”).
Sartell would be the second city in Minnesota to have such cameras installed. Woodbury already has such a system where it has been a big success, particularly in finding stolen vehicles and those who stole them.
Here is an example of how the cameras would work: Let’s assume a speeding driver hit and injured or killed a pedestrian in Sartell or another city. Someone at the scene saw the incident happen and noted the color, make and model of the vehicle and perhaps its license number. That information is then reported to the police. The information given could be typed into the camera system. If a camera within the eight-camera system “sees” that particular vehicle, it could immediately record it and set off a remote alarm to the police. Then police could follow the vehicle, set up a roadblock and notify other law enforcement in the area.
Silgjord emphasized the cameras will not be recording video photos of the drivers or occupants and will be operated in accordance with Minnesota’s strict data-privacy laws. The “hot list” will be programmed only for very specific search criteria entered in the system by law enforcement.
Mayor Ryan Fitzthum praised the camera system, saying it would be good for a city like Sartell that is growing larger and that it would be a good way of levering technology for future policing.