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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Huge crowds and fires. Rowdy celebrations crushed into the streets when the UofL Men's Basketball Team won the NCAA Championship last year.
But there's a view you haven't seen. Up high, perched on utility poles across the city, are dozens of Louisville Metro Police cameras. The night U of L won the championship, police tried to disperse the crowds.
One video shows men using a lighter to catch a shirt on fire. People rocked a tree until it came down and even though partygoers didn't know it, it was all captured on video from three locations: near U of L, in the West End and the Highlands.
"Well, you see it on the news every day with the NSA and CIA," said Detective Brandon Lincoln with LMPD's Technical Operations Unit. "That's not what this is. This is about keeping the community safer than it already is."
Inside MetroSafe, all 54 MetroWatch cameras can be viewed. Sixteen camera views at a time pop up on the screen, showing everything from the Papa John's Cardinal Stadium parking lot to areas near local gas stations.
"If someone calls us about a specific problem or we happen to glance at one, we can adjust that camera for the area to go to," explained Detective Bradley Woolridge with the Technical Operations Unit.
Sergeant Joe O'Toole also works in LMPD's Technical Operations Unit.
"The images are clear enough," O'Toole said. "If we are able to zoom in, if we need a licence plate on a car, that's not a problem at all."
There are 12 cameras in West Louisville in what's considered hot spots. For example, at 35th and Broadway, surveillance footage has shown cars being stolen, drug deals and robberies. All of the video is stored on a server for police to view and review. Police are not releasing those videos because some of the cases are still under investigation.
The cameras can capture footage up to a quarter-mile away. Many are on a timer that rotates the cameras to show different angles. Another part of the program, still in the testing phase, will allow officers to view the cameras in their division on their cell phones and police car computers.
"In the Downtown area, we have approximately 20 cameras that are here to capture all different types of information for us," Lincoln said. "The cost right now with the vendor that we're using is approximately $5,000."
The program started in 2006 with just a few cameras, and it's still growing. Police officials say the Time Warner Cable bill to run the cameras is $6,800 a month. Grants have helped with the costs.
Bryan Taylor, the Manager of Bunz Burgerz says, "For example, our sign got busted. Actually guys working next door saw it happen."
Now Taylor sees some benefits to eyes always watching -- he just recently learned about the cameras along Baxter Avenue. He's now hoping the vandals were caught on tape.
Says Taylor: "If you are catching people robbing people, that's good and defacing property and stuff, catch stuff like that... that is going to cost business owners a lot of money, then it's definitely good."
"I know we've had some shootings recently," Woolridge said. "I can't say that the cameras caught the shootings, but there was some very beneficial information from the shootings that came from those cameras that the detectives used to help further the investigation. "
Police can change the cameras' locations as needed and expect to install new cameras in the next couple of weeks.
As O'Toole puts it: "The cameras never get tired. They never get sick. They never go home and need to get replaced. They're constantly working and viewing and recording what's going on."