CLAY COUNTY – While video surveillance has been used to help identify suspects of crime, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office wants to use store cameras to catch criminals before they have a chance …
CLAY COUNTY – While video surveillance has been used to help identify suspects of crime, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office wants to use store cameras to catch criminals before they have a chance to escape.
The agency unveiled Clay Community Connect in 2019, and now it wants to enhance the program to link businesses with the sheriff’s office while the crime is being committed.
That way deputies already will have a description of the suspects as they race to the scene.
“It is public/private partnership for the sheriff’s office,” said Asst. Chief of Communications Ashley Barber. “The sheriff’s office enters into a partnership with different homeowners associations, businesses and any public type like that have cameras. When we get an alert, we can relay that information to the deputies that are responding to the call so they’ll have all that before they even get there.”
Once a small device is added to the camera system, it can trigger an immediate response, Barber said. If an alarm system senses a window break in the middle of the night, the sheriff’s office can see who is breaking in, what they’re wearing and which direction they escaped – all while deputies are arriving on the scene.”
CCSO went door-to-door recently along Wells Avenue to speak with business owners about the Gateway to Clay Initiative. The sheriff’s office has increased its presence in the area, while county officials and volunteers have removed much of the blight that plagued the main corridor from Jacksonville into Clay.
Reports of serious crime dropped 45% since the program started a year ago. Barber believes Connect Clay will result in more arrests and fewer crimes.
“It essentially puts boots on the ground at the scene before we even have anybody there,” Barber said.
Barber said if they have a description of the getaway car, CCSO can utilize traffic cameras from the Florida Department of Transportation to follow the suspect. Traffic cameras are common on most major roadways in the county, especially on U.S. Highway 17, State Road 21 (Blanding Boulevard), Wells Road, Kingsley Avenue and County Road 220.
Will Garcia was one of the first business owners to hook into the Community Connect program. Both of his McDonald’s franchises are connected to the sheriff’s office, and the cameras of his C.R. 220 at College Drive store were used to identify a suspect who then was arrested for robbing the same massage spa three times in a month.
“Being a business owner, the utmost importance is the safety of our customers is our responsibility,” Garcia said when his restaurant went online. “Being able to partner with the sheriff’s office and all the great things they’re doing helps us as business owners to contribute to the community. Keeping my crew safe is of utmost importance. It’s good to know they’re keeping an eye on my restaurant and parking lots.”
Linking surveillance cameras to the sheriff’s office is a two-step process. First, cameras need to be registered with CCSO. The process takes less than a minute, and it can be done through a secure online portal. Second, owners need to permit the sheriff’s office to monitor camera feeds. Owners can select full-time surveillance or only when the agency is alerted of a possible problem.
“It helps solve crimes faster,” Barber said. “We do stuff in real-time, as well as historical investigations.”
For more information or to enroll in the program, visit claysheriff.com/crime/prevention/clay-community-connect.