Tardy crime-fighting cameras nearly ready to go

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August 23, 2004 // UPDATED 3:29 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

After months of delays, the Target-sponsored "SafeZone" cameras are expected to go live by early September, said 1st Precinct Insp. Rob Allen.

When Target and the 1st Precinct unveiled the proposal in spring 2003, officials predicted the cameras would be turned on by that July. More than a year later, crews are still working behind the scenes to get the cameras rolling.

The "SafeZone" project is a partnership between Minneapolis Police and Target Corp., which donated 30 cameras to assist police in keeping a more watchful eye on the western half of Downtown.

The cameras, installed on light posts from Washington Avenue to 12th Street, and 1st Avenue to Nicollet Mall, will be synched with a wireless system.

To date, 23 of the 30 cameras are operational, but the viewing room hasn't received any live feeds yet, Allen said.

"Initially, we thought that it would be a much easier project than it is -- turns out it's extremely complex," Allen said. "We're using a technology that has never been used in an urban area before."

One of the logistical hurdles involves finding constant sources of electricity for the cameras, Allen said.

"Part of the problem is [the cameras] are on light poles and lights only have power when it's dark, so you have find electricity to bring them. The other issue is we're using [new] wireless technology....We're building a system that works in theory and now works in the lab," he added.

In November 2003, Paul Valentine, a crime-prevention specialist in Northampton, England, visited the 1st Precinct to assist with the closed-circuit television system (CCTV). The city north of London has installed about 300 cameras to deter "nuisance" crime and improve security near the retail districts.