Chatham-Kent Police Chief Gary Conn speaking at Chatham-Kent Council’s May 13th meeting. Photo credit: YourTV Chatham.

An extra layer of security will soon be coming to more downtown areas across Chatham-Kent.

Following a successful pilot project in Chatham, the Chatham-Kent Police Service will be expanding the use of closed circuit television, or CCTV, to more communities.

The new CCTV cameras would all have built-in AI capabilities that would proactively alert on-duty officers of potential criminal activities and suspicious behaviour, allowing them to respond proactively. The cameras would also be equipped with Automatic License Plate Reader technology, which can assist with vehicle identification.

Police Chief Gary Conn said the cameras allow police to conduct investigations and respond to active situations faster than ever before.

“The camera system can be used proactively to search for identifiers such as clothing, vehicle markings, etc., we just punch it into the search engine,” Conn explained. “It does not comparatively search any of our databases, our records management system, for specific individuals or vehicles, ensuring that we comply with privacy legislation.”

The initial proposal included 35 cameras to be installed in Chatham, Wallaceburg, Blenheim, Ridgetown, and Tilbury. However, councillors agreed to add Dresden, Wheatley, and Thamesville to the list as well.

Ward Five councillor Carmen McGregor said the eight cameras to be installed in Wallaceburg will be greatly appreciated.

“We’ve had a lot of issues in our downtown core, I can think of one store owner that’s probably had his place broken into four or five times within the last year or two,” McGregor said.

The Wallaceburg councillor added she’s very pleased to see additional communities included in the CCTV project.

“As much as I know it is needed within our community and how much our business owners, our downtown core want it, I would think that the business cores in all of our communities, regardless of their size, would want the same service and protection.”

The cost of the expanded CCTV project over the next five years will be $989,315 with capital costs funded through Strategic Reserves. Operating costs for 2024 will be also funded through Strategic Reserves, and included in budget talks and grant applications in 2025 and beyond.