The Bronx District Attorney’s office is visualizing a new way to approach petty crime activity, literally.
Partnering with the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and the borough’s business improvement districts, the DA’s office unveiled a security camera-sharing program titled the Bronx Community Assisted Mapping System at the end of 2018.
Called CAMS for short, it’s essentially an intranet of security camera locations provided by members of each of the borough’s BIDs, allowing the DA’s office exclusive access to crime-related digital footage.
Prior to this program, NYPD would be responsible for collecting security surveillance camera footage from businesses along the commercial corridors and deliver the haul to the DA’s office by hand.
“Police aren’t always able to obtain the footage needed,” said Kerry Chicon, chief of strategic enforcement in the DA’s office. “Many cameras are private and many don’t have footage stored on site. Also there’s many times when officers aren’t aware of some camera locations even, not to mention often times the footage is deleted before it can be obtained,” she explained.
Essentially this new program removes most of the problems currently encountered when obtaining the evidence that could indisputably solve a crime. The DA’s office would have a confidential, interactive map of surrounding security cameras not only in the immediate vicinity of a crime, but its surrounding area as well.
“So now, as soon as a crime is reported, someone from our office can view multiple footage angles that responding officers may not have been aware of or had not had the ability to obtain previously and that’s a huge aid to the prosecution,” Chicon explained.
She continued, saying that the police get flooded with amateur footage in high profile cases like the ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz case, but hardly anything is forthcoming during the more common, everyday robberies and store hold-ups.
Currently the program has nearly 1,000 surveillance cameras enrolled and that number continues to grow.
Bronx Chamber of Commerce president Lisa Sorin praised the new initiative, calling it “one of the best things that can happen for Bronx businesses.”
Prior to her presidency, Sorin was the executive director of the Westchester Square BID where she had worked with the New York state to have nine surveillance cameras installed in the BID’s most trafficked areas.
And the program is already paying dividends according to the Chamber.
“It’s already worked dozens of times. The merchants have given us very positive feedback on this program,” Sorin said.
Also in the east Bronx, the soon-to-be Throggs Neck BID is ready to welcome the CAMS program. Bob Jaen, president of the Throgs Neck Merchants Association who was instrumental in setting up the BID believes that the camera network will be put to good use.
The impact of sharing 24-hour surveillance cameras with the Bronx DA shouldn’t be a concern to shoppers, the Throggs Neck merchant said.
“I’ve never been a supporter of ‘big brother’ -like cameras watching over us, but this doesn’t seem to be the case, especially with the new ferry stop that Throggs Neck is anticipating. Upping our security is definitely something positive,” Jaen said.