Cheswold joins growing list of communities with cameras

Cheswold Police aim to add two PTZ (pan, turn and zoom) cameras per year within town limits. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson )

CHESWOLD — Some money financed officer overtime pay and a new patrol rifle.

Cheswold used most of its Violent Crimes Grant (VCG) funds, however, to purchase its first surveillance camera set to debut next week.

The grant was for $14,000 with $11,500 going toward a high-definition PTZ (pant, tilt, zoom capability) camera. Town council supplied the remaining $11,700.

Police Chief Christopher Workman plans to add a couple cameras annually, he said Thursday. Grant money typically comes available in September or October.

“It’s the natural way things are going — our officers already wear body cameras and technology continues to evolve,” he said. “For small departments it expands the view of the town and adds to patrol ability.”

With a staff of chief and four patrol officers, Cheswold Police are challenged to meet the needs of a growing town that is growing with annexation and construction, including an 800-plus-unit Stonington residential project, the chief said.

“More streets take more time to cover,” Chief Workman said.

The new camera is already atop a pole next to railroad tracks in the area of New and Commerce streets. Officers can view video from the police station, vehicle laptops and through a phone app.

“Currently we are awaiting a repair to the power service to one of our connection points at which time we will be finalizing the initial startup of the program and the first camera,” Chief Workman said.

The added surveillance is a safety benefit to all, and police hope to expand its reach through local partnerships.

“Our hope is that somewhere in the near future the businesses in the community will also tie into the system, which will allow for the department to also have eyes on the lots and business properties to facilitate identification of criminal activity if necessary,” he said.

With a Dover-based Advantech system already running within the department, Cheswold managed to save on infrastructure costs for outside cameras. The town is paying for installation, equipment and maintenance but fewer startup fees. There’s already room for 10 more channels for video.

Clayton all in

In northern Kent County, Clayton is covered by 11 cameras monitoring a large swath of the town, and Police Chief Carl Hutson hopes to add more.

Clayton Police spent all $26,000 of its state-provided VCG for cameras, and just more than $1,000 was funded via the town budget. Newark-based Emergency Response Protocol provided the equipment.

The cameras debuted two months ago and has produced tangible results — police were able to review a couple incidents on the street that aided investigations.

A PTZ (pan, turn and zoom) camera will soon be operational in the area of Commerce and New streets in Cheswold. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Perhaps the most important view came during a house fire on Main Street that recorded the Clayton and Smyrna fire department’s response. Afterward, Clayton received the footage and used it as part of a training exercises to evaluate their actions.

Three cameras are near Clayton Elementary School, and the plan is to eventually add them to view all school entrances. The new park on Main Street is covered as well.

Cameras can deter crime or greatly assist in solving them, Chief Hutson said.

“People who are aware of them are less likely to commit an offense,” he said. “If not, then they can aid in an investigation.”

According to Chief Workman, “These are exterior cameras near the roadway and not peering into people’s homes.

“You have no expectation of privacy once you step out the front door into the public view and it doesn’t take long to forget about a camera being there.”

Smyrna Police engaged two cameras in 2019 and monitor them at all times, spokesman Cpl. Brian Donner said.

“The cameras are effective in that if we have an incident in the area, our staff working in our dispatch center can monitor it real time,” Cpl. Donner said.

“They can provide updates to patrol personnel responding and they can also monitor the safety of what is occurring. They have also been effective for traffic concerns/problems at certain locations.”

‘Several arrests made’

Dover began installing cameras in 2010-11 and now has about 110 in action. More will likely be connected in the “near future” according to police spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman.

“The camera system installed throughout the city has been a tremendous asset in solving crimes that occur in the city,” Cpl. Hoffman said. “There have been several arrests made as a direct result of the evidence the camera provides.

“In addition, they have also helped us prevent crimes from happening on several occasions.”

Milford Police estimated that a camera system was installed around 1995. There are currently three cameras operating.

“It’s a very old system we have placed in our park areas, paid for by a parks grant,” spokesman Sgt. Robert Masten said. “(The cameras) are monitored in our communication center at the police department.”

Camden has multiple cameras installed, according to Police Chief Marcus Whitney.

“The cameras were installed in areas to assist in investigations involving both criminal and traffic offenses,” he said. “To date they have been a great asset and on a number of occasions have been the primary reason a crime was solved.

“They have also proven to be invaluable on crash scenes and assist greatly in determining the true cause of a collision.”

Camden’s first camera was installed in the area of Star Hill Road and U.S. 13 in 2014.

“From that point we continued expanding the system to include the entire inside and outside of the municipal building, maintenance building and 17 additional cameras throughout the business area as well as intersections and roadways,” Chief Whitney said.

“My intention is to expand the system as Camden continues to grow.”

While Harrington doesn’t have a camera network around town, they are at the police station and city hall. Some businesses in town have them, police spokesman Lt. Earl K. Brode said.