"It's just another tool in our toolbox that helps make our community safer," said Drew Juden, director of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety.
"We have a total right now of 21 cameras," Juden said. "Most of the cameras that are located throughout the community are PTZ (pan, tilt and zoom) cameras which means we can move the camera 360 degrees and we have the ability to zoom in and out on areas of interest."
With a few touches of a joystick, vague pedestrian shapes in the distant background of a camera's view can be brought to the center and enlarged to fill a monitor screen.
"We can get facial recognition to some degree, we can get license plates," Juden said. "It just depends on the proximity of what we are trying to watch to the camera."
Some of the cameras are connected by fiberoptics - which provides near-
instant control of the cameras - while others are wireless. The DPS dispatch center now has two large plasma screens, each with the capacity for 16 cameras, for continuous monitoring of all the cameras as well as several regular monitors.
"Each dispatch position has a spot monitor, so the dispatcher has the ability to pull down any camera to their spot monitor," Juden said.
As funding for some of the cameras was provided through a school grant and by the Sikeston Housing Authority, cameras are placed in and around the schools and around Housing Authority properties. Juden said the schools and Housing Authority will have the ability to access the views for their own cameras while DPS dispatchers can access any of the cameras.
"It's almost like putting an officer in that particular area permanently," Juden said. He explained the system has a "walking the beat" feature in which the cameras are programed to "turn and zoom in and out on their own in a pattern we select."
Using this feature, is it much more likely that the camera will witness an incident.
"They're all recording constantly on a hard drive, not tapes," Juden said. "Currently we have the capability to go back several weeks and review something that's been captured."
"We've already captured some crimes in progress on the camera," he noted. "There's no better evidence than video evidence. It's hard to refute."
As word gets out about the camera system's abilities, city officials are hoping the system will be a deterrent so those elements bent on breaking the law will "maybe decide to go someplace else to perpetuate a crime," Juden said. "They always have that chance now of being in the view of the camera."
The camera system will also serve as an officer safety tool, according to Juden.
Using the camera system to look over incident locations, dispatchers now can play a much more active role in preparing officers for the situations they send them to. The cameras also enable dispatchers to zoom in and monitor officers during vehicle stops to check on their well being.
"They think it's great because it provides them with another way to keep their eyes on the officers," Juden said.
While zooming in can provide details, zooming out can give the big picture.
"It's going to give us the ability to monitor traffic flow in the community," Juden said. For example, he said, the camera located on North Ingram will help DPS deal with rodeo traffic.
Members of the public may get a view as well.
Juden said officials are presently looking at feeding the signal from the camera at Main and Malone to a Web site or the public access cable channel so everybody can have a look.
"We just have to get with the IT (interactive television) people and see which is the best way to do that," Juden said.
The cost for the system works out to about $13,000 per camera, according to Juden. DPS and city officials are presently looking at expanding the system, possibly with community involvement.
As for those with privacy concerns, Juden said it should not be an issue.
"There's a lot of businesses, banks that have them - just about any place anymore that has problems with theft has some kind of camera surveillance system," he said. "Our goal is not to look in anybody's window or intrude in anybody's residence. Anything that happens out in public - that's what were concerned with."