big brother is watching

HPD may add video cameras to its ranks
Officer shortage leads city to look at surveillance of streets, malls — even some homes

— reported by the Houston Chronicle

Facing a shortage of police officers, Police Chief Harold Hurtt called Wednesday for a new type of patrol: surveillance cameras on downtown streets, apartment complexes and shopping malls — and in extreme situations, private homes.

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The downtown-camera project already has a group to fund it: the Houston Downtown Management District. Once the cameras are installed, the project would be carried out by HPD. Officers would monitor video feeds from a new storefront office planned for downtown.

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The program would cost tens of thousands of dollars, Eury said, declining to estimate more precisely since the project will be put out for bids.

The emphasis on new police and surveillance is part of the city’s response to a recent spike in violent crime.

It was up 2.3 percent through November 2005, compared with the same period in 2004, though the overall crime rate was down 2.2 percent.

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Technology isn’t the only tool HPD is using to fight crime. The understaffed department hopes to entice experienced officers nationwide to work in Houston by offering a $7,000 bonus and increased pay under a program approved Wednesday by City Council. By hiring 700 new officers every year for the next three years, Houston would have 2.8 officers for every 1,000 people, the national average, instead of the current 2.2 per 1,000 people, Hurtt said.

Under the incentive program, HPD officers who have less than five years’ experience will also get a pay raise.

Author: Paloma Cruz

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