LANSING, Mich. — The Lansing Police Department has 29 surveillance cameras across the city. Interim Police Chief Ellery Sosebee wants more.
"LPD has for many years has tried to bolster our preventative measures in the city," he said. "Part of that is getting our cameras up to date."
Sosebee says the city's cameras have been up since at least the early 2000s, and it's time for the city to update them.
"We roughly have about 20 locations that were throughout the city that have cameras that we can view 24/7, but they're old technology. And we need to replace that because we can view their video feeds, but their quality is not very good," he said.
Sosebee said their hope is to add, "many new cameras," that will better identify people and vehicles and be more useful as evidence in court proceedings.
"Absent eyewitnesses or cooperation of those witnesses, the cameras are sometimes our only real leads in some of these criminal acts," said Sosebee.
Just 29 security cameras may seem like a low number for a major city, so FOX 47 looked into how other Michigan cities compare.
Lansing has a population of 118,210, according to 2019 Census data, and Lansing police say they have 29 security cameras.
Ann Arbor is just a bit bigger than Lansing, and Ann Arbor police say they have no city cameras except on their own building.
Grand Rapids has a population of 201,013, Grand Rapids police say they have "easily over 30" security cameras.
Detroit has a population of 670,031, Detroit police say they don't own any city cameras but monitor 3,900 cameras across the city.
Flint is smaller than Lansing with a population of 95,538, FOX47 couldn't get a response from their police department, but according to a report from MLive, they have more than 50 security cameras in high crime neighborhoods alone.
Sosebee said the hope is to have "an additional 100 cameras throughout the city located in specific areas, and those areas are picked by our data."
The cameras will be placed in high crime areas, city parks, and intersections and along major roads, he said.
But is putting up surveillance cameras actually effective?
A study conducted by Urban Institute, an organization of social and data scientists, looked into exactly that.
"In 2016, the National Institute for Justice funded a project that I led, where we worked with the Milwaukee Police Department to implement new cameras, public surveillance cameras across their city," said Dan Lawrence, principal investigator on the study "Public Surveillance Cameras and Crime."
The project, which ran from 2016 to 2020, added 45 cameras to the Milwaukee Police Department surveillance program, more than doubling the department's camera count.
"The cameras that were installed in Milwaukee found an increase in crime overall," said Lawrence. "And that's mainly because monitors were observing crimes that otherwise wouldn't be reported. And also, the clearances associated with those crimes did see a higher level of clearances, about 14 percent. So the cameras were actually aiding the investigations for the monitors."
"Clearance "means an arrest was made to close a case.
Overall the Milwaukee Police Department said the new cameras were helpful, but had two downsides: Camera alerts took police officers away from their other duties and the ethical problems associated with setting up cameras in poor neighborhoods with high minority populations.
"So there's a question of whether it's ethical and fair and justifiable to have these types of technologies implemented in communities that are already facing a lot of issues and having the aspect of over-policing occur," Lawrence said. "Because now monitors are identifying new crimes that otherwise wouldn't be identified, and a lot of these crimes are really nuisance crimes."
Lawrence's team concluded that there's a lot of benefits to additional city cameras, but when cities like Lansing are looking to implement the technology, it's vital they research different camera types and ask their community for input.
"It's really having an open conversation and working with a community that's most critical on these types of applications," Lawrence said.
The Lansing Police Department does not have a date for when they will get their additional cameras, but they have been getting some momentum with federal grant funding.
Sosebee says when the cameras are put up, their locations will be public knowledge.