Wilmington, Delaware Shares 'Lesson Learned' with Other Inner Cities Planning Surveillance

"Our mayor has said that there will be no more cameras installed in our town that are not bullet resistant." — Dean A. Vietri, director of safety operations

29 December 2011

 

Dean A. Vietri, Director of Safety Operations for Wilmington, Delaware's downtown business improvement district, offers a hard-knock lesson for other municipalities installing a surveillance system. He believes his experience can "save other cities a lot of money." Midway through Wilmington's Video Safety Network project — a public-private cooperative aimed at covering the city's entire downtown with surveillance cameras — Vietri realized standard housings couldn’t do the job.  "At one point, we were installing 16 new cameras, and four of them were destroyed before they ever went online," Vietri said. In the city's high-crime area, criminals were shooting the cameras or knocking them off the poles, determined to do away with the eyes on crime. "Make sure that you start out with bullet-resistant equipment,” Vietri recommends to others.

Wilmington didn't start out with bullet-resistant equipment, instead they are replacing original units with Moog Videolarm's patented DeputyDome™, the only bullet-resistant dome camera system available on the market at that time. "They've ordered 16 DeputyDomes and continue to order more, replacing the other manufacturer's standard domes as they are shot up," says Marc Faubert, technical engineer, Moog Videolarm.  And what happens to the DeputyDome when it's shot? "It works perfectly.  I had one camera shot nine times in two days, and it's still working fine," Vietri said. In some areas of the project, Moog Videolarm's vandal-resistant dome system is being used. "Moog Videolarm has done a wonderful job insuring their equipment is completely compatible with our current system. The technology is amazing. I have one camera that can see 17 blocks, because of where it's placed," Vietri commented.

Wilmington has about 100 cameras watching its streets. Since the system was first installed, the city has made hundreds of arrests, and "not one has gone to court because everyone pleads out," Vietri said. Of the city's 20 homicides in a single year, the video safety system provided useful footage for ten of them. "We're making arrests, and we're displacing crime.  Our hope is to displace criminals…right out of the city," Vietri noted.

Vietri wishes such a system existed during his 23 years as a police officer and eight years in the Wilmington Drug Unit.  "I think it's the finest example I've seen of effective community policing," Vietri concluded.  Wilmington's surveillance system has served as a benchmark for other cities. Currently, the staff of Downtown Visions is assisting Philadelphia, Chester (PA) and Atlantic City (NJ) in their efforts to create a successful video safety program.