Issues with Cleveland crime cameras raise concerns: I-Team

I-Team

CLEVELAND (WJW) – A FOX 8 I-Team investigation is exposing a breakdown in a city of Cleveland security camera system that’s set up to protect you.

We’re asking questions after we found cameras not working and, at times, no one working in the center to watch them.

The cameras are part of a network fed into the Real Time Crime Center. The center reviews video and gets clues to officers quickly to improve the chances of an arrest after crimes.

However, Wednesday night, police responded to a murder across from the West Side Market.

Police radio recordings show a dispatcher saying, “Real Time’s checking but the cameras aren’t functioning.”

An officer can be heard saying, “Can you have Real Time Crime look at the camera in the area of 26th and Lorain?”

Then, a dispatcher responds with, “The cameras were not functioning because of the storm, but I’ll let them know.”

Recently, after a deadly hit and run, dispatch audio revealed an officer saying, “Real Time cameras… They are currently down and have been for some time.”

This comes to light even as the city has been installing more surveillance cameras all over Cleveland.

We played some of those recordings for Fay Harris, an activist on the west side. She told us she pushed to have the city put up the cameras in the area of the murder Wednesday night.

“I think they’re dropping the ball. I feel really bad. It almost says the city is neglecting the maintenance of those cameras,” Harris said.

The I-Team also investigated how often no one is working in the Real Time Crime Center. We reviewed records for five months and found no one working in the center on 17 days.

We also found other days with the center staffed for just a few hours.

Now, the Cleveland Police Union is also looking into this.

“It is a tool to help solve crimes or get suspects or bad people in custody right away, but it’s also a concern for citizens,” Union President Jeff Follmer said.

Cleveland Police issued the following statement:

“There are over 1,500 cameras within the city’s camera network. These are outdoor cameras, which are exposed to all four Cleveland weather/climate seasons and require technical and physical maintenance from time to time which is performed by staff and contracted vendors.”

The statement continued:

“The Cleveland Division of Police Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) was created to assist officers in the field by gathering information on criminal activity as it occurs and during the course of ongoing investigations.  The Center is regularly staffed during peak hours. Both officers and analysts assigned to the RTCC are on-call and available to respond for critical incidents when the center is not staffed, as is the case with the Division’s call-up units. The Cleveland Division of Police intends to increase the staffing level of the RTCC once overall Divisional personnel increases. As a reminder, the Cleveland Division of Police is currently accepting applications for the position of Patrol Officer.”

The Real Time Center has, in fact, helped solve crimes. That’s why officers can be heard asking what the cameras show. Police did not, however, tell us how many cameras are down currently.

While one dispatch recording referred to cameras down since “the storm,” police did not reveal when that storm passed through.

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