LAKE MARY, Fla. - You've probably noticed little surveillance cameras perched above a traffic signal are popping up at intersections everywhere.
Road engineers typically watch them, to keep an eye on driving habits, and spot traffic jams.
But Local 6 uncovered how one local police department is tapping into those cameras to better respond in an emergency.
The toughest part of a dispatcher's job is having to listen and make the most informed decision in the least amount of time. It's based entirely on what she hears. So imagine if that dispatcher could also see what's going on.
"We were able to see the types of vehicles involved, we were able to see the road blockage," said Erin Ward, a Lake Mary emergency communications operator trainee.
Ward works in the Lake Mary Police Department communications center. She's learning a better way to handle 911 calls taking what she hears from frantic callers and combining it with what she sees on the 6 traffic cameras, monitoring the major roads around the city.
"If we got a call for a reckless driver we could zoom in so close we could see the person inside the vehicle," said Ward.
The cameras are so good, they can zoom into a license plate a quarter mile away. They can pick up people in the crosswalk with enough detail to tell the color of their shoes.
"It increases the response time. It increases the effectiveness of the response because you have a clear picture of what's happening real time," said Zach Hudson with the Lake Mary Police Department.
Lake Mary police say besides responding to car accidents, think silver alerts or missing children.
"If you have a child missing in a particular area, whether the child is in a vehicle on foot, being able to monitor those intersections where you have a high level of traffic, is going to give us that ability to spot that child, spot that missing child," said Hudson.
"Having 3 small children who can walk away easily, or God forbid someone tries to take them, you have cameras that will be there that will ID the car, license plate number, along those lines," said mother of three Kenya Wallach.
The Wallach family spent much of their vacation trying to cross the streets of Central Florida, safely. Wallach is reassured that police are watching over her family, so to speak.
"When it comes in handy, that's when you think about it. When you have the accident, that's when you're praying there's an extra set of eyes looking," said Wallach.
But husband Adam Wallach is skeptical saying, "Now are they going to be monitoring it if someone is jaywalking?"
"We're not here to monitor 'Joe Citizen' down the road, what these cameras are here for to increase our ability to respond to emergencies in a more effective way," said Hudson.
All of this video coming into the department is not recorded. They said they have no need to because they don't do anything with it.
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