COLUMBIA (WACH)--- You can bet someone's watching you walk down the streets of Columbia.
The capital city has an intricate camera network of more than 500 cameras from Five Points to North Main Street.
"The camera's are simply something to help the police and catch crime, so if they weren't here then that would just be one tool that they wouldn't have," Said C
olumbia businessman Carey Shealy.
Shealy is the owner and architect of an intricate camera network that catches crimes daily.
Shealy installed his first street level cameras in the summer of 2009, after a rash of crime in Columbia's Five Points.
Since then, Shealy has been working hand in hand with the Columbia police department, giving investigators a new tool at crime scenes.
Shealy's camera network allows officers the ability to review video close to real time and within minutes of arriving on the scene
His cameras caught several of the capital city's recent high profile crimes on tape.
A July shooting at the Colony apartments where investigators say a stray bullet struck a four year old girl watching tv in her home and the most recent a shooting in Five Points that left USC freshmen Martha Childress paralyzed.
"Surveillance cameras have proven over, over and over again, not just in Columbia but throughout the country that there very effective in deterring crime, business will increase, people are going to shop where they feel safe," adds Shealy.
"They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, you can only imagine what video does," said
interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago.
Santiago says cameras are vital in fighting crime and they're being used in law enforcement around the globe, pointing out he made a trip across the pond to London, where cameras are everywhere and he learned how law enforcement in the United Kingdom is benefiting from surveillance cameras.
While he knows they won't prevent all crimes he argues that they've played a major impact in Columbia's crime rate.
"We want these cameras to be highly visible, we want people to know that the cameras are there because we want them to be serve as a deterrent. I think people who don't have a desire to be caught are going to think twice about committing crimes," adds
A recent study of three cities conducted by the Urban Institute shows the presence of cameras are effective in reducing crime for some, though not all, areas.
The report says, the key isn't just having cameras, but how the devices are used, how many cameras are employed and where the cameras are set up and how well the devices are monitored.
Columbia's top cop says the city is planning to add hundreds of more cameras around the capital city.
Estimating nearly 800 surveillance cameras will be keeping an eye on the city's popular dining and shopping destinations.
"Columbia will be a safer place, it's going to b e a tool that will inhance our arsenal, when it comes to our tools for fighting crime, it's going to help us know more what's going on... be our eyes and ears," said
"There's no question that they're helping fight crime, that's one of the reasons that crime is down significantly, in some areas as much as 50%, if you go into Five Points or certain areas there's a very high percentage you're going to be caught," Concludes Shealy.