The New Orleans Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® (NOMAR) recently secured $15,000 to support an innovative public-private program that makes neighborhoods safer in New Orleans with privately funded surveillance cameras. These cameras help provide the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) with critical insight during criminal investigations. And because the police often share stills and video with the media, the footage is also beneficial for neighborhood watch programs that keep a close eye out for their community. “Simply put, visible security cameras can help prevent and solve crime,” said NOPD Chief Michael Harrison at a recent press conference.
New Orleans’s first attempt to install citywide cameras in 2004 did not end well with millions being spent and only around 200 cameras actually being installed. Mayor Mitch Landrieu ended the taxpayer-funded program in 2010, leaving the city open to undocumented criminal activity.
ProjectNOLA, a nonprofit organization founded by criminologist Bryan Lagarde, was the first to step up by funding and installing an estimated 1,500 cameras that provide citywide surveillance. Recently, a new program called SafeCam NOLA was developed by the NOPD and the Police and Justice Foundation with the goal of further increasing the number of cameras in high crime areas.
Like ProjectNOLA, SafeCam surveillance cameras are privately funded so they place no additional burden on New Orleans’ taxpayers. However, the program is unique in that it requires that all cameras be registered with SafeCam. This registration helps police to have a full understanding of the surveillance resources available to them, as well as assessing the need for additional cameras.
The Millennial Spirits of NOLA, a nonprofit run by the city’s young residents, helped to launch SafeCam with a $16,000 donation. Those funds went towards the program’s startup cost, including placing 38 registered cameras on private properties throughout the central city.
NOMAR is now playing a large part in keeping the program’s momentum going. After attending a community forum where the need for more surveillance cameras was discussed, NOMAR reached out to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to talk about the issue. NAR agreed that neighborhood safety was crucial for the future of homeownership and provided a $15,000 grant so that NOMAR could actively support SafeCam.
NOMAR believes that SafeCam will empower homeowners with the ability to safeguard their community by installing cameras that provide police surveillance. The association will be using the funding to pay for more SafeCam camera installations, promote the program to homeowners and to lead additional fundraising efforts. “There is a direct link between crime rates and property values, so it was obvious to us that our association and members needed to get involved in the effort to provide additional resources for our hardworking NOPD officers and detectives,” said NOMAR Senior Governmental Affairs Director Kelli Walker.
To date, more than 2,500 private surveillance cameras are currently registered with SafeCam NOLA and the program continues to grow thanks to the support of residents, nonprofits and the REALTORS® of New Orleans. NOMAR President Mary Vastola is happy to be part of this initiative: “Our partnership with NOPD and the Police and Justice Foundation has just begun, but we’re looking forward to seeing the impact REALTORS® and residents will have by working together to create a safer New Orleans.”