Nov 17, 2021 - News

Atlanta's surveillance network could get revamped

Illustration of a pattern of eyes looking around.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Atlanta’s already expansive network of surveillance cameras — and the Downtown panopticon monitoring the feeds — could soon get an upgrade with new cameras and new technology.

Why it matters: Once considered one of the most surveilled cities per capita, Atlanta’s network of public and private cameras has shrunk in recent years.

  • The overall network also came under scrutiny after city officials said the cameras in Piedmont Park were not functioning the night Katherine Janness and her dog Bowie were killed.

Driving the news: The city is in the middle of a $3 million push to add more than 250 cameras to city streets and public areas, not including a $1.6 million purchase of 140 cameras and license-plate readers in April.

  • The city, working with the Atlanta Police Foundation, is finalizing a plan to upgrade the Video Integration Center (VIC)'s "architecture, hardware, and software" over the coming years, a spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tells Axios.
  • The APF, a nonprofit that helps fund public safety programs, declined to discuss details, saying talks are in the early stages.

Context: Launched in 2007 with funding from the business and philanthropic communities, Downtown’s VIC is a $5 million all seeing-eye where APD officers have access to more than 3,000 public and private cameras throughout Atlanta.

Flashback: A few years ago, the VIC monitored more than 10,000 cameras, according to the APF.

  • Upgrades to cameras by other public entities and private systems made their cameras incompatible with the VIC’s technology, greatly reducing the VIC’s reach.
  • Police officers check the VIC system twice a week for nonfunctioning or nonresponsive cameras and told Atlanta Magazine in August that the percentage had dropped from 18% to 10% since January 2021.

What they’re saying: If the city is adding more cameras, it must also make sure there’s cash to maintain them, Atlanta City Council member Joyce Sheperd, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, tells Axios.

  • More than 250 cameras stopped working at the end of 2019 and into the following year after the city failed to pay maintenance bills, Dave Wilkinson of the APF told Reporter Newspapers in February 2020.

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