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New security cameras keep eye on crime

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) officials now have 20 new sets of eyes to help them patrol the University area – and they don’t require lunch breaks.

Security cameras, which HCSO began installing in the area in April surrounding USF, are now up and running – using infrared lenses that can read a license plate from three blocks away to capture crimes on film.

All of the cameras are located in a boundary between North 23rd Street, Fowler Avenue, Bearss Avenue and Nebraska Avenue and were installed with the intent to “lower the crime statistics in the surrounding neighborhood… concentrating on violent crime and drug sales,” said HCSO Major James Burton in a video on the department’s website. The cameras run 24 hours a day and video can be stored for several weeks.

They are wireless, which allows the HCSO to change their locations and add additional cameras to the system, he said. When a video is captured, a microwave transmitter attached to the cameras beams a signal to the District 1 offices, which oversee the University area.

However, residents shouldn’t worry about the cameras prying into their daily lives.

“We are not looking to look into people’s homes or delve into their personal business,” Burton said. “We’re just looking to further control the criminal element out there.”

Burton said the cameras, which were funded by a $1 million federal grant, are attached to electric poles in plain view of the public. A flashing blue strobe light attached to the top of the cameras also indicates their presence.

For Ivonee Molliner, a junior majoring in psychology, privacy is not a major concern.

“It’s a good idea because my freshman year they found a rapist on campus,” she said. “I think it’ll help us feel safer and be safer at the same time.”

About three HCSO officers are currently employed per 1,000 residents, according to the 2010-11 HCSO budget, and the county’s 2008 crime rate was 41.72 crimes per 1,000 residents.