Cutting edge police tactics have come to Port Jefferson.
Through a network of video feeds, Port Jefferson is hooked into a Real Time Crime Center facility monitored by the Suffolk County Police Department, allowing police instant access to cameras set up in key places around the village.
According to Mayor Margot Garant, Port Jefferson is the first and only village in Suffolk County to have video feeds that are directly accessible by police at the Crime Center, located in SCPD headquarters in Yaphank.
There are eight video cameras placed mounted around Port Jefferson that monitor the village — looking out for nefarious activity and providing information on various incidents.
SCPD Chief of Department Stuart Cameron confirmed for GreaterPortJeff.com that not only is Port Jefferson the first village to share its real-time video feeds with the Crime Center, the police have remote access to control pan, tilt and zoom on the cameras.
Called PTZ cameras (for the pan-tilt-zoom actions), the video feeds are accessed whenever needed by cops.
Cameron said the connection was initiated by liaisons at the 6th Precinct working with the village. The technology has evolved quickly in the months since Port Jefferson gave SCPD access.
“The initial access was via website,” said Cameron. “However by working with [Parking and Mobility Administrator] Kevin Wood from Port Jefferson Village we were able to obtain direct access as of a couple months ago.”
Wood says that cameras were initially installed three years ago, but it was only in the last eight months that he was able to make upgrades that increased the system’s efficiency.
He made the video feed “double redundant,” meaning video is stored in two different places, including in the Cloud. The upgrades included the pan, tilt and zoom ability and putting every camera on the village’s own high bandwidth connection.
Although neither Garant nor Wood disclosed where the cameras were installed specifically, they said they are not hidden and can be spotted if you look for them.
Parking meter revenue paid for a majority of the camera installation, especially, Garant said, the cameras covering the parking lots.
Garant praised Wood’s work in getting the video surveillance technology to where it is now.
“Kevin pulled this whole thing together,” she said.
SCPD treated Garant and Wood to a tour of their facility last month.
They got to see the Real Time Crime Center in action. Garant described it as a wall of screens with technology that is far beyond anything she had seen in action before.
Cameron, who led the tour, along with Suffolk County Executive Steve Ballone, noted that the Crime Center facility grabs information off video imagery like license plate numbers to match against multiple databases and police records.
The police are also using Artificial Intelligence software at the Crime Center to track criminals.
They use predictive analytics to look for connections between people and dig up relationships to find possible co-conspirators. Other AI-enabled software matches vehicles that might have been involved in a crime to all similar ones caught on cameras in the vicinity.
“If we have [description of] a red car with no license plate we can search the camera feed for every red car,” he said.
They can even use the sophisticated AI to detect all vehicles caught on camera with specific identifying marks, like a dent on the side of the car.
All this is happening before an officer arrives to take a report about a crime.
“In [the Real Time Crime Center] even before we have a car on the scene we can start working on it,” Cameron said. “We want to do that at the same time we dispatch the cars. Maybe while they are still en route.”
Any useful information the RTCC discovers is sent to the responding officer.
Separately, Port Jefferson constables also have access to the village’s video cameras through an app and live feed.
Wood said that the village recently used the video to figure out what happened in a hit-and-run incident on Main Street.
Although the SCPD doesn’t keep an archive of the video feed from Port Jefferson, Wood confirmed that as of now, the village has the ability to do a seven day look-back.
The SCPD is appreciative of Port Jefferson Village’s cooperation and says sharing the video feed maximizes the county’s investment in these technologies.
“We are both using it to make Port Jefferson a safer place,” Cameron said.
He noted that the ferry makes Port Jefferson a place of interest for police, as it provides criminals a way to flee Long Island. He said it’s also a useful tool in antiterrorism efforts.
“Many people forget that’s a way off the island,” he said.
The cameras are mounted only in public places where there is no real expectation of privacy, Cameron pointed out. Police do not monitor the videos around the clock either. They will only be looking after some type of trigger event.
But, it helps to have them there to enhance policing as if the SCPD had an officer on every corner with eyes peeled.
“It’s a force multiplier,” Cameron said.
Top (L-R): SCPD Chief of Department Stuart Cameron, village administrator Kevin Wood, Mayor Margot Garant and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (Photo courtesy of Kevin Wood)