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I-Team: More than half of Toledo Police Skycop cameras not functioning properly

Speaking out on violence
Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 5:28 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The 13abc I-Team has learned that Toledo’s eyes in the sky are in bad shape. Toledo police say more than half of the Skycop cameras are not operating as they should -- some aren’t transmitting live video, some aren’t recording at all.

They were the latest in video technology in 2012 but Toledo Police say the Skycop camera program is outdated.

When someone tried to steal Jasmine Tucker’s car on Kenilworth Avenue in February, she ended up on the car’s hood, traveled another two blocks until the driver hit a curb and her body hit this pole.

“Just think of somebody with a sledgehammer and they just hit you and you’re just like ... it was god awful,” said Tucker.

This pole happened to have a Toledo Skycop camera mounted on it, so the crime should have been clearly on tape, but when the I-Team asked about the video we were told the hard drive was bad and there was no footage. Turns out that’s only the tip of the iceberg with camera problems.

“The camera system right now is at the complete end of its life. It would be like putting a bandage on a gunshot wound. It’s simply not going to help. The entire system needs to be replaced,” said Lt. Kellie Lenhardt of the Toledo Police Department. “The cameras are at the end of their life span.”

Toledo police say the nearly 10-year-old program needs replacement.

Here’s how bad the issues are:

Toledo police have 91 camera locations. Officers can only access the video from 40 locations and the live video can only be accessed from 25 of those locations. The other 15 need to be manually downloaded. The video from 51 locations is not accessible.

They’re analog cameras that use antenna technology to send back signals. Several antennas are broken.

“If there’s a storm or if trees become overgrown a lot of those antennas don’t work which effectively takes out multiple cameras,” said Lt. Lenhardt.

The Skycop camera program started in 2012 with the city investing over a million dollars into it. The hope was to have them monitored 24 hours a day but currently, that’s not happening.

Toledo police say they’re monitored live Monday-Friday on day shift and one person monitors them on midnights. Officers can go back and review video if the camera works.

“The reality is the cameras are a decade old if not older. If you can, think back a decade ago of how much technology has changed since then. Our cameras are not excluded from that,” said Lt. Lenhardt.

Toledo police have looked at replacement cameras. They would have updated technology but will come with additional costs. So will the mayor’s office and council find the money to keep the program going?

“This is a matter of safety and preservation for our residents in Toledo,” said Lt. Lenhardt.

If a new camera program does come online, you might not see the flashing blue lights that currently sit on the cameras. The idea was originally a crime deterrent. But some now see them as a signal to people of an unsafe neighborhood, a place they shouldn’t be. That’s part of the discussion police are having if a new generation of cameras comes alive.

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