Sheriff wants Project NOLA crime cameras

Published 3:33 pm Friday, October 8, 2021

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NATCHEZ — When former Police Chief Walter Armstrong came to Natchez in August 2017, he found a department overwhelmed by the number of shootings and violent crime being committed here.

By the end of 2018, Natchez was nearing a record number of homicides in a single year. Armstrong knew he needed help and reached out to Project NOLA.

Project NOLA, a non-profit organization, is located on the campus of the University of New Orleans. It began in 2009 by criminologist Bryan Lagarde as a way to help reduce crime by using cameras to make police more efficient and citizens more aware. Today, Lagarde is executive director of Project NOLA and in addition to monitoring crime in the City of New Orleans, it has crime cameras in more than 100 cities around the country.

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In December 2018, Project NOLA installed its first cameras in the city of Natchez, the first going to the area of Holiday Apartments, which at the time was a crime hotbed.

Almost instantly, the high-tech cameras of Project NOLA proved to be a success. Crime decreased in the Holiday Apartments area on Old Washington Road and that has continued to today.

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten is a huge fan and wants the board of supervisors to OK Project NOLA cameras for use in the county.

“Just take Holiday Apartments for example. That place has changed a lot since Project NOLA put cameras there. They were having shootings weekly and crime there has been cut down drastically because of the Project NOLA system,” Patten said. “The criminal element that was there knows that is not a place to commit crimes anymore because you will be caught.

“At one time, the residents of Holiday Apartments were predominately Black, but now you have Blacks, whites, Hispanics. It’s really become a diverse apartment complex,” he said. “When I ride through there, I see kids all out playing. They aren’t looking over their shoulders the way they used to before Project NOLA.”

Patten has targeted 15 different locations in the county where he would like to install Project NOLA cameras, in addition to all apartment complexes and nightclubs and bars in the county.

“I would like to see the Board of Supervisors require Project NOLA cameras in every apartment complex and bar in the county. Project NOLA gives us another set of eyes that we can use to prevent and solve crimes. And those cameras are monitored at Project NOLA. We don’t have to utilize our manpower to monitor them,” Patten said.

The quality of the Project NOLA camera is much superior that the ones typically installed by home or commercial security systems.

Not only can the cameras detect gunshots and instantly turn in direction of the shots, they are so high definition they can readily read license plates, capture faces for identification and even the denomination of cash being used in a drug transaction.

Further, the feeds from the camera are streamed in real time to the Natchez Police Department and, if approved, will be streamed to the Adams County Sheriff’s Department.

Lagarde talked via video on Monday to the Adams County Board of Supervisors, which is also seeking to install one or more Project NOLA cameras to help secure the Natchez Aquatic Center.

Lagarde explained Natchez has a total of about 60 Project NOLA cameras at work. About 30 of those are being paid for by the City of Natchez.

“Our preference is to install cameras at residences, schools and churches in order to use the internet service of the homeowner or school or church,” he said.

Cost of putting a camera at a home, school, church or business ranges from $300 to $400 for a stationary camera or $550 per year for a pan-tilt zoom camera, which can move as programmed by the installer.

“Since we are a non-profit, anything anyone pays us is tax deductible because it benefits the whole community,” LaGarde said.

However, he said Project NOLA does not install the camera.

“About 95 percent of the cameras installed in Natchez were done so by E South Technologies, but anyone who is a licensed professional can install these cameras,” he said.

He said typical cost for the installation of the stationary cameras is about $250 and cost for the pan-tilt zoom camera is about $500.

The annual cost paid to Project NOLA is for the “loan” of the camera.

“How it works is, as a non-profit, the grants and donations we receive is used to purchase equipment. We provide a loaner camera, which is a police grade camera. It sees much further and wider (than typical security cameras),” Lagarde said.

The cameras operate very well in darkness. All are high definition cameras, but the $400 level camera is a higher definition than the $300 camera and flashes red and blue lights when it detects a person on your property during times when they are not supposed to be there. The cameras are smart enough to differentiate a person from an animal or fallen tree of others obstacles, he said.

The $550 cameras can also detect gunshots and turn in different direction

Those interested in learning more information about getting a Project NOLA camera at their home or business should call Bryan Lagarde at 504-736-9187. The annual fee paid for the camera is tax deductible.

For information and cost of installation, please call Troy Guillory at E South Technologies, 504-234-1017, or any licensed professional camera installer.