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As talk focuses on crime cameras, questions loom about old crime cameras

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BATON ROUGE - As Baton Rouge is on track to have a record number of homicides this year, leaders are looking at an expensive tool the city once had to be their eyes and ears on the streets. Adding additional crime cameras to the streets is now on the table again.

Nearly a decade ago, the City of Baton Rouge shelled out approximately $3.5 million for 150 crime cameras and shot spotter detection systems. However, as quickly as the units were installed, the leaders found the systems were plagued with problems and rife with controversy.

Today, less than half of the 150 cameras that the City of Baton Rouge purchased ten years ago are working. Today, only 70 are operable. Maintenance exceeded $100,000 on the cameras per year, and the track record of results from them was poor.

To date, the $3.5 million that was used on crime cameras in the city resulted in footage being used in only one prosecution, according to District Attorney Hillar Moore. Moore supports crime cameras if the program is managed correctly.

Questions were also raised about the strategic locations where the City of Baton Rouge placed the cameras. Many were in areas that did not help the community. In 2012, the WBRZ Investigative Unit found two overlooking Baton Rouge Police Headquarters. Our cameras also captured the expensive tools near the CATS Bus Terminal.

With pleas for the community to speak up and say something's not working, officials are once again examining the need for those cameras.

"The technology has advanced way past the ones we have now," EBR Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker said. "We have to update those and get some new ones."

Wicker said the City of Baton Rouge is currently in talks with the feds to get help paying for it.

"We've gotten some commitments from our congressional delegation," Wicker said."Whatever it looks like, they are willing to work with us. They realize Baton Rouge is in a crisis right now, and we need all the help we can get from everywhere to end these issues we are dealing with... with crime."

The system that is currently being explored by the City of Baton Rouge is not cheap. To add 25 cameras to the streets, it will cost taxpayers approximately $260,000. That number does not include the servers that will also have to be purchased to store the video footage from those cameras on. Estimates on the servers have not come in yet.

For residents like Darren Banks, anything that can be used to solve crimes or make the community feel safe is a good investment.

"If the crime cameras can help me figure out a crime, especially something happens to my loved ones or one of y'all... it's a good idea," Banks said.

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