OGDEN -- The Boston Marathon bombing highlights the Ogden Police Department's need to take proactive measures in enhancing its already robust video surveillance capability, says a department official.
"Anytime we can do something to make people safer, we want to utilize that technology," said John Harvey, the police department's deputy director of support services. "We are mindful of public resistance to Big Brother-type of methods and only want to keep people safe."
Ogden P.D. currently operates 230 surveillance cameras scattered throughout the city in municipal buildings, along 25th Street and Washington Boulevard as well as several trailheads.
Over the next three years, the police department will also have access to about 1,000 cameras the Weber County School District plans to install in its 45 schools, Harvey said.
Surveillance cameras are monitored, and video footage is recorded in the police department's Real Time Crime Center within the Francom Public Safety Building, 2186 Lincoln Ave.
The center features a host of state-of-the-art computer programs that allow officers to combine statistical information, such as where crimes occur and where parolees live, to pinpoint areas of highest crime-prevention priority.
Police personnel can also use computer equipment to pan surveillance cameras and zoom in on images displayed on large video screens.
The police department hopes to eventually obtain funding to purchase software that would enable cameras to search crowds for particular suspects or detect unattended bags or packages, Harvey said.
"We would like to have better technology," he added.
Neither the Davis County or Weber County sheriff's offices have surveillance cameras similar to those used by Ogden police. However, the Weber County Sheriff's Office uses data collected by the Real Time Crime Center and has assigned a detective to work there part time.
Surveillance cameras don't prevent attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing, but can be useful afterward for investigations, particularly those involving high-profile events, said John Mejia, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.
The ACLU opposes the use of cameras by police to monitor the activities of individuals, Mejia said.
"Surveillance at the public square alters our everyday habits," he said. "I don't think it jibes with our expectation of what our government should be doing."
Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are pushing for greater integration of surveillance systems between police and businesses. For decades, law enforcement has contacted businesses for video after a crime. An integrated network would make that easier, advocates say.
Since the Boston bombings, police officials have been making the case for such a network.
In Philadelphia, the police commissioner appealed last week to business owners with cameras in public spaces to register them with the department. In Chicago, the mayor wants to expand the city's already robust network of roughly 22,000 surveillance video cameras.
And in Houston, officials want to add to their 450 cameras through more public and private partnerships. The city already has access to hundreds of additional cameras that monitor the water system, the rail system, freeways and public spaces such as Reliant Stadium, officials said.
"If they have a camera that films an area we're interested in, then why put up a separate camera?" said Dennis Storemski, director of the mayor's office of public safety and homeland security. "And we allow them to use ours, too."
In Los Angeles, police have been working on building up a regional video camera system funded by about $10 million in federal grant dollars over the last several years that would allow their network to be shared with nearby cities at the flip of a switch, said Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Michael Downing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.