Council Accepts $950k for Street Camera Program
Elkins W. Va., November 3, 2023: In early 2023, the Elkins Police Department was notified that it would be allocated $950,000 from the federal government for the installation of approximately 75 street cameras, dashboard cameras in all EPD vehicles, and related public safety technologies. With council’s acceptance of those funds at Thursday’s meeting, this project is ready to move from the planning to the implementation phase.
The purpose of this project is to increase EPD’s ability to gather evidence after crimes or traffic accidents and to automatically detect vehicles driven by persons being sought by law enforcement. These could involve arrest warrants or endangered persons, such as during Silver or Amber Alerts. The cameras will not be monitored live, but captured footage can be consulted after the fact to aid investigations. Similar systems are already in use in multiple West Virginia cities, including Bridgeport, Clarksburg, Morgantown, Parkersburg, White Hall. Under West Virginia law, cameras cannot be used to issue traffic citations.
According to EPD Chief Travis Bennett, camera placement is being carefully considered to balance privacy and public safety.
“We are not planning to place any cameras in primarily residential neighborhoods,” Bennett explains. “We simply want to be able to look back at traffic movements and incidents occurring along the city’s major rights of way. There is no intention to try to capture activities on private property.”
Bennett says the installation will proceed in three phases. In the first phase, cameras will be placed at all major ingress and egress points to the city, such as Beverly Pike, Harrison Avenue, North Randolph Avenue, and U.S. Rte. 33. In the second phase, cameras will be placed at all major intersections and points of interest throughout the city. In the third and final phase, cameras will be placed in all city parks.
The installation of dashboard cameras in all EPD vehicles is another important component of this project.
“We were very excited to implement body-worn cameras on all EPD officers earlier this year, and we’re excited about implementing dashboard cameras for the same reasons,” says Bennett. “The more video recording we can produce about police activities and interactions with the public, the more accountability and safety there is for all parties involved. Body-worn cameras have already proved to be a great part of our toolset and dashboard cameras are going to play a positive role in our work as well.”
The installation of street and dashboard cameras is seen as necessary due to recent trends and pending developments in the Elkins region.
“Elkins was recently designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,” says Bennett. “That’s good in terms of the additional resources it brings to support our interdiction efforts, but of course it also confirms what I and my officers already knew about the high level of illegal drugs coming into and through Elkins. Drug and human trafficking through this area is only going to increase once Corridor H is completed. This camera program is a proactive step that will help us get ready to meet these challenges and keep Elkins as safe as possible.”
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