Seventeen High Activity Location Observation security cameras were installed along Sixth Street last Friday, aimed at thwarting crime and will expand to include a total of 26 cameras by next week, Austin Police Department Lt. Patrick Cochran said.
Cochran said the camera system known as HALO has already been used to identify one person involved in an assault, but hopes that the cameras will mostly be used to prevent crimes rather than record them happening.
“We would rather deter crime than have to deal with actual crimes in the first place,” Cochran said. “But if a crime does happen, then we can have some evidence to catch the criminal.”
Cochran said the cameras were installed before Halloween weekend, not because they were expecting many crimes, but because they wanted the opportunity to test the cameras on a busy weekend.
The cameras cost a total of about $250,000 and were paid for by the Austin Downtown Business Alliance, Cochran said. The cameras are housed inside a bulletproof enclosure and are designed to be highly visible to people on the street. Recorded footage from the cameras is stored for seven days and streamed wirelessly to a monitoring station where at least one person is always on duty.
“We are hoping that if people just know about the cameras, it will deter crime,” Lt. Cochran said.
Assistant manager Mark Wright of Buffalo Billiards on Sixth Street said he welcomes the introduction of security cameras to the area.
“I’ve seen fights, stabbings and muggings happen around here,” Wright said. “Having more eyes everywhere to see what’s going on will do more good than bad, in my opinion, to fight crime.”
Cochran said the public response to the downtown cameras has been very positive, and the cameras wouldn’t be installed if people didn’t want them.
“We tried to put cameras at 12th and Chicon,” Lt. Cochran said, “but they didn’t want any cameras there, so we weren’t going to force them.”
Germanic studies graduate student Ryan Dux said the security cameras represent the city’s distrust for the people to report and prevent crimes on their own.
“I would see more purpose for cameras in dark alleys and places where people are unable to see well,” Dux said. “Not the busiest streets where you would hope people would report the crimes themselves.”