Eyes On Crime: Columbus Police Cameras Aren't Always Working Or Able To Help Following Crime

Published: .
Updated: .

Shana Stoner has five children who she wants to keep safe.

It's why she doesn't mind the cameras next to her home on the city's east side near Kent Street and Seymour Avenue.

The city installed them to fight crime.

“It's a good thing to have it there for proof of anything going on,” said Stoner.

Her neighbors say the neighborhood is improving but more needs done.

“I think this neighborhood over the past few years has gotten much better,” said Jim Swisshelm.

“I've seen shootings, I've seen people actually laying in the grass with sheets over them,” said Jan Rahe.

Because of crime, the Livingston corridor has 48 of Columbus' 199 neighborhood cameras.

They give city employees the ability to monitor hot spots from the command center or precincts, and send police when necessary. They also make it possible to check video after something happens and look for clues and suspect information.

“We have the ability to pull that off and hold that video,” said Dan Giangardella, Deputy Director of Columbus Public Safety.

But if the cameras are to be potentially important crime solving tools, it's imperative they work.

10 Investigates filed a public information request for city emails and for the summer of 2013 found a list of issues with downtown cameras - the ones that provide an eye over big events like Red, White and BOOM! and the Columbus Jazz and Rib Fest.

One email from July 12 referenced a concern two cameras were not working for the festival. Follow-up information indicated three of four cameras went back on line, but three others went off line.

The email trail suggests a range of problems over a spread of months - everything from "cameras stuck looking down"..."to power disconnections"..."to cameras recording sporadically.”

“At about what point last year would you say you figured out the connectivity issues?” asked 10 Investigates.

“It was not long, I believe after the date you site. We actually called the vendors in,” said Giangardella.

But there were problems after that.

One November email said "We tried to view the Broad and High cameras this morning because of the robbery and were not able because of the delay and jerkiness of the playback."

“That's the first one I've ever heard where they went to look or evidence and because of the camera they couldn't find something,” said Giangardella. “Again, it's technology, so you know, occasionally you might have 5 to 10 percent of the cameras that we have to go out and regularly have maintenance.”

Shana likes having that eye in the sky in the neighborhood that she raises her kids in.

Yet, the city email chain shows the Kent and Seymour cameras next to where she lives also had issues nine times from August through November of 2013.

During our interview she mentioned an incident from the night before with police cruisers in her neighborhood. 10Investigates made a public records request for the surveillance video from the three cameras at that location. Video from the Kent and Seymour Fixed South camera appears to be blurry.

10 Investigates found similar patterns with other cameras.

“Overall, how have you felt about the performance of the cameras and the service they're providing?” 10TV asked.

“From time-to-time you have a couple of connectivity issues, but I think overall, we've been happy with the system so much so, we're looking to try to integrate it more into police operations and look at adding some locations.”