DPD’s New Plan for Crime Hot Spots: Virtual Patrols

If you see this sign, DPD is watching you.
If you see this sign, DPD is watching you. Dallas Police Department
The Dallas Police Department plans to address crime problems at convenience stores it's identified as some of the toughest in the city with an extensive package of new technology, according to the department.

Three gas stations — a 7-Eleven in Oak Cliff, a Texaco in East Dallas and a 7-Eleven near Cityplace — have been outfitted with camera systems, software and signage as part of DPD's Starlight Initiative.

Cops at DPD headquarters will monitor feeds from the cameras in real time and will send officers to the convenience stores if they see a crime taking place. The software being run by the cameras can also help detect criminal activity, according to the department.

"Keep in mind, the software embedded in the system has the ability to recognize anomalies that might indicate a crime in progress, such as a camera being covered or tampered with, sudden movements by individuals in view of the camera, etc. This, too, would notify personnel that a crime may be in progress, creating a ‘virtual patrol.’ The technology will help keep officers safe because they will know ahead of time what to expect before arriving at a potential crime scene," DPD said Monday.
That sounds a little Big Brothery for our tastes, but maybe that's just us.

DPD Chief U. Renee Hall helped unveil the new cameras at the Texaco on Ferguson Road.
The chief said Dallas residents feared going to the stores because of the amount of crime that took place on-site.

"We did not do anything different when we were focusing on crime here," Hall said. "We focus on data-driven solutions, and that is what we used to select these three locations. We looked at (locations) with the highest calls for service throughout the city and that is how these three areas were selected."

The stores participating in the program will have a blue light to inform residents that the stores are safe places to shop, the chief said.

"Police can't be everywhere, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," the chief said. "This is the 21st-century policing response to not being present in body."

The Starlight Initiative, as the program is being called, is a six-month pilot program funded by Safer Dallas, a local nonprofit that frequently makes donations to law enforcement-friendly causes. According to DPD, similar programs in Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit and Springfield, Massachusetts, have seen participating locations have a reduction in reports of violent crime.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young