Police, Hopkins to share surveillance video

Hospital, city team up to boost area security

January 24, 2010|By Julie Scharper | julie.scharper@baltsun.com

Baltimore police are teaming up with the Johns Hopkins Hospital to share data from security cameras, marking the first time the city has partnered with a private agency to share surveillance footage.

Video from 136 cameras around the perimeter of the hospital's East Baltimore campus will stream into the city's surveillance office under a deal approved by the city's spending board last week. In exchange, Hopkins security staff will be able to access video from six city-operated cameras in the area.

"If an incident happens, the police will be able to pull it up in real time and view it," said Sheryl Goldstein, director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice. The office seeks creative ways to work with public and private organizations to enhance safety, she said.

Although the hospital campus is patrolled by more than 100 security officers, violent crime from surrounding neighborhoods occasionally spills onto the campus. In September, two employees leaving the Kennedy Krieger Institute narrowly missed being struck by a stray bullet that lodged in the purse of one of the women.

The city cameras will enable Hopkins security officials to scan the neighborhood for everything from crime to fires to traffic jams, said Harry Koffenberger, Hopkins' vice president of corporate security and a retired city police commander.

Police already use information from the hospital's cameras to investigate crime. But under the current system, police must obtain the footage from hospital security officials, which can slow an investigation.

The 1,000 cameras on the hospital's campus are scanned by a computer program that alerts dispatchers if a person falls, runs, loiters, leaves a package or engages in other suspicious actions, he said.

The city's 500 closed-circuit TV cameras are constantly monitored by police at the Citiwatch center, Goldstein said. An additional 75 cameras, which are being phased out, record footage but cannot be watched in real time, she said.

The hospital is donating the computers and software that will be needed to stream footage from the Hopkins cameras to Citiwatch, Goldstein said, enabling the financially strapped city to implement the program at almost no cost.

"We want to help the police," Koffenberger said. "The East Baltimore campus and Bayview [medical campus] are two of the safest areas of the city, and we want to make them even safer."

East Baltimore Development Inc., which is redeveloping the neighborhood, plans to purchase and install 10 more cameras that will be shared with Hopkins and police, Goldstein said.

The city is negotiating a similar deal with the Maryland Transit Administration to share video footage from bus stops and light rail stations, she said. The two agencies are seeking grants to pay for the costs associated with installing cameras at bus stops and streaming video feeds, she said.

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