GRESHAM, Ore. — Have you seen the cameras mounted on power poles across Gresham?
The city installed the first three surveillance cameras a decade ago. Since then, the camera count has grown to 24 — and an additional 10 will be installed soon.
"It's been an intentional effort, especially in the last year with some of the uptick in violent crime, to add those cameras," said Officer Adam Baker with the Gresham Police Department.
Baker took a brief break from patrol to tell KGW about the cameras on Thursday. Since the cameras were installed, Baker said, police have noticed a 20 to 50% reduction in crime in some areas.
Moreover, Baker said that footage from the cameras has been used in more than 100 criminal investigations.
"That's anything from a fatal car crash to burglars who leave one location and we can follow their travel through town," he said.
While it is not an easy task, Baker continued, the cameras can also be moved from one area to another if there is a noticeable spike in crime.
But with a program like this comes the potential for criticism. Police are well aware that the cameras may come across to some people as an invasion of privacy — too reminiscent of "Big Brother."
"My take on that is we're not monitoring those cameras all the time," Baker said. "There's only a few people who have access to the footage. It's not like we have people sitting in front of monitors watching things going on all the time."
Baker said that staffers look back at the footage only if and when a crime happens. He said it is quite helpful to a police department that is facing a staffing crisis.
"We want people to know the cameras aren't there to spy on people," Baker said. "They're there to help police solve crimes and hold people accountable for the actions they do."
Within the last few years, the Portland metro area has seen a sustained rise in homicides, primarily the result of gun violence. While the worst of it has been within the Portland city limits, there have been nights in Gresham marked by multiple shootings within the space of a few hours, or weeks with at least one shooting per day.
When the Gresham Police Department paused its school resource officer program in July, the agency said that it was short 19 officers.