SCPD expands access to closed circuit cameras amid mass shootings

SCPD expands access to closed circuit cameras amid mass shootings

County Executive Steve Bellone, center, speaks at the April 20 press conference. Police Chief Stuart Cameron, left, and Suffolk County Police Department Commissioner Geraldine Hart were also in attendance. Photo from Suffolk County

In response to the 50 mass shootings that have occurred throughout the country in the last month, the Suffolk County Police Department is enabling supermarkets and big box retailers to connect to a camera system set up to provide the police with video access to schools.

Using a resource called SHARE, which stands for Sharing to Help Access Remote Entry, businesses can plug their closed-circuit systems to the police department’s Real-Time Crime Center. The connection, which will have no cost for businesses, is designed to provide critical, up-to-the-minute information to police in the event of an active shooter.

“We know from previous active shooter events that seconds matter,” said SCPD Commissioner Geraldine Hart at a press conference on Tuesday announcing the initiative at the Suffolk County Police Department Headquarters in Yaphank. “Seconds can save lives.”

The ability to see inside a building would give the police intelligence that they could pass along to first responding officers, providing a description and updated location of a person or people who had weapons.

“One of the things that keeps me up as county executive is the idea that we could have one of these shootings here in our county in Long Island,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D) at the press conference. The SCPD, which has been “at the forefront of efforts to address the possibility of mass shootings is, once again, announcing a continuation of these efforts.”

The collaboration between these stores and the police could go a step further, giving the police access to electronic controls that would allow them to open electronic doors remotely for emergency responders, helping them get to victims sooner and giving them a chance to maneuver around a perpetrator.

“We value partnerships with the community,” Hart said. “The goal is to keep people safe.”

Since 2016, the Suffolk County Police Department has done 420 active shooter presentations. On May 2, the SCPD will hold an active shooter drill at a King Kullen in Middle Island, which is the first time the police will conduct such an exercise in a supermarket.

The SCPD has also held 67 stop the bleed training classes for residents, which teaches people to treat wounds and practice applying tourniquets.

The SCPD will have the “ability to see inside those stores if, God forbid, an active shooter situation arises,” Bellone said.

In 2019, Bellone, Hart and Police Chief Stuart Cameron announced the SHARE program at West Babylon high school, which gave police the ability to tap into closed circuit TVs at area schools.

“This is one of the best things we can do to help save lives in an active shooter situation,” Bellone said. “We’re going to do everything we can on a local level to deal with the possibility of mass shootings.”

Bellone called the number of mass shootings in the country, which exceeds one per day, “insane,” and urged Congress to adopt “common-sense gun safety measures.” Rather than wait for a provision that might solve or prevent all the problems, Bellone urged Congress to take action immediately to reduce the risk of events that rob families and the community of loved ones amid senseless violence.

The police would only access cameras in the event of an emergency or a potentially dangerous situation.

Last month, the Village of Port Jefferson — which has had cameras hooked up to the Suffolk County Real-Time Crime Center for over two years — was able to help police find and arrest Joseph Garcia of Port Jefferson Station for the alleged shooting of David Bliss Jr. on Main Street. 

“We were proud to partner with the Suffolk County Real-Time Crime Center a few years ago to take advantage of this program that keeps our streets safe,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “It’s proven to create a quick response and help reduce crime in our village.”

Businesses and Suffolk County residents can gather more information at: SCPDShield.org.

Additional reporting by Julianne Mosher

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