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Strategic Cameras In Minneapolis Catch Criminals In The Act

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- If there was ever a question about the usefulness of police security cameras, the recent events in Boston give a ringing endorsement. Cities across the country are reassessing their own surveillance networks to make sure the technology is current.

In Minneapolis, a state of the art information center keeps constant watch on downtown streets. The system was initiated about ten years ago after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. What began as just a few security cameras has grown into a vast network of 180 electronic eyes.

Just hours after the images were out, Boston's bombing suspects were mysteries no more, and many say without those images, the manhunt would've taken a lot longer. Credit goes to the silent policing tool for giving investigators their biggest break.

"The goal is to provide a sense of safety and security for the residents, knowing that we are able to view emerging patterns or threats that are taking place," said Commander Scott Gerlicher, who oversees the Minneapolis Strategic Information Center, where an intricate web of wireless cameras and microphones maintains an electronic vigil.

Beyond deterring crime, the Strategic Information Center catches it in progress. Cameras recorded a drive by shooting as shot spotters captured every round.

"Often times we're able to follow that suspect from camera to camera as they move up and down a specific corridor covered," Gerlicher said.

And it's not just city cameras that are watching. There's an effort underway to interface with all those private security cameras outside banks, office towers and businesses, ever expanding their eyes on the streets and giving reassurance to the public and fair warning to criminals.

"The way technology is increasing exponentially five years from now who knows where technology will take us next," Gerlicher said.

The system is constantly evolving. In fact, it's likely that officers on the streets will be able to access video feeds directly in squads or even on their smart phones.

Gerlicher says it doesn't replace the need for boots, but rather makes officers that much more effective.

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