By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Bowling Green will soon be adding some eyes in the sky in the downtown area.
New cameras are planned for the four corners and for the city parking lot behind Panera. The installation of cameras is nothing for residents to worry about, according to Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick.
“This isn’t anything new. We’re just replacing them with updated models,” Hetrick said.
The cameras are not used to catch motorists who are speeding or run red lights. And the vast majority of the footage goes unviewed – unless it’s needed to identify suspects.
“We’ve solved some crimes,” such as assaults and robberies with the video, the chief said.
Cameras have also recorded fatal accidents and have been helpful with determining how they occurred, Hetrick explained. A camera previously installed by the city at a construction site on the north edge of town recorded an accident in which four people were killed. And an ODOT camera at Interstate 75 captured a fatal motorcycle accident on the overpass.
“They do have a usefulness in higher traffic areas,” Hetrick said.
The city’s downtown cameras record constantly. The images can be pulled up in police dispatch if necessary.
“Typically the dispatchers don’t have time to watch them,” on an ongoing basis, the chief said.
The only video in constant view of the dispatchers comes from cameras at the intersection of Main and Wooster streets. “They are great for seeing traffic problems,” Hetrick said.
Replacing those obsolete cameras at the four corners will cost $10,500. The new cameras for the parking lot behind Panera, where parking kiosks were recently installed, will cost $12,000. Since the city’s general fund is tight, the funds are coming from the police trust fund, which is generated from enforcement efforts such as fines.
Hetrick hopes to next have cameras installed at the corner of North Main and Court streets. That area has the “highest incidence” of assaults and other issues as bars close, he said.
Eventually, the chief would like to have cameras in all the city’s downtown parking lots.
“We’ll hopefully expand cameras in those lots as they are updated,” he said.
The city is careful to position the cameras so they cannot record neighboring residential properties, the chief added.
In the past, the city has had cameras in the city lots behind the Clazel and behind Finders, on South Main near SamB’s, at Court and Main, and at Prospect and Wooster. However, all were removed when they became obsolete. The only remaining ones are at the four corners.
The new cameras will be from Habitec, which are used at the Wood County Courthouse. The cameras have lasted quite a few years at the courthouse, and Hetrick is hoping they do well in outside weather conditions. “They’re not supposed to be that delicate,” he said.
Ultimately, Hetrick would like the city to install cameras at other areas with frequent incidents. However, the city currently does not have the fiber network needed throughout the community.