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10.20.21 – The Meridian Star, Miss.— Oct. 20—

The City of Meridian is moving forward with a plan to fix issues with the camera network used by police to address crime.

The city council on Tuesday approved a service agreement with Mississippi Power to maintain the camera system, and Mayor Jimmie Smith said further updates are planned.

“Our camera system has been in a pickle,” he said. “And we are fixing that.”

Smith said cameras have the potential to be a great crime-fighting tool for the city, but there are issues that need to be addressed before the network can be utilized. Currently, he said, the city is working on installing additional monitors in the police department on which officers and the public will be able to view the feeds.

“What we’re doing is putting monitors in the police department so we can see on the cameras what’s going on,” he said. “And also the public can see.”

The city is also evaluating where the cameras are located, and whether moving some cameras to other areas would be more beneficial, Smith said.

“One of the things we’re going to do is try to put them in strategic areas,” he said. “That’s part of the process we’re working through.”

The current layout of the cameras is somewhat erratic, Smith said. Identifying key areas and being strategic about where cameras are placed is part of getting the most out of the system, he said.

Another issue plaguing the system has been a lack of training. Without officers trained to use the cameras, Smith said it’s difficult to use the system to its full potential. He said a training session was scheduled for Friday to get staff up to speed and help get the system back on track.

Ward 2 Councilman Dwayne Davis said part of the original plan with the city’s camera system was to allow homeowners to purchase cameras and share the feed with the police department. He said he knew residents who wanted to participate and were waiting for the city to make that option available.

“We’re working on that. We haven’t got there yet,” Smith said. “I haven’t seen the cameras like they’re supposed to be working. Once we do that, we wanted to expand it to homeowners as well as property owners that have concerns about things thats going on around their businesses.”

Smith reiterated that the camera system has the potential to be a great tool for the city, and with advances in technology, there are options available that go beyond just a plain video feed.

But, he said, expanding the network, adding advanced options and other upgrades are things to consider later. Right now, he said, the city needs to fix the system in place and put it to use.

Fighting back against crime

In Tuesday’s board meeting, Smith also addressed high crime rates and the problems plaguing the police department.

“My thing is, I would love to have two police officers in every car going down every street and every alley,” he said. “That’s community policing. And we’re not there yet, but we’re going to work on it. We’re going to work on getting there.”

Smith said getting the police department the staff, tools and training it needs is going to take a long time. These issues, he said, didn’t happen overnight, and they can’t be fixed over night. However, he said he was committed to working to address the problems and work with the community to find solutions.

“I believe that over the years our police department was dismantled,” he said. “And we’re going to have a long time dealing with this stuff because people didn’t do what they should’ve done a while back.”

Meridian has a vibrant community, and the police department has dedicated, hardworking officers, Smith said. Crime is an issue cities through the nation are wrestling with, he said, but in Meridian the city is going to fight back.

“It’s unfortunate we’re in the place we are right now with crime, but we’re going to fight this stuff,” he said. “We’re going to do what it takes to get better.”