Downtown cameras catch assaults, drug crimes, more

1,300 arrests credited to downtown program

SAN ANTONIO - Eight cameras watching the streets of downtown San Antonio continue to give police a bird's eye view of crime as it happens and have been a success so far.

That is the word from San Antonio police Chief Bill McManus, who said the cameras save manpower and put criminals behind bars.

In one video captured by the cameras, a group gathered in Travis Park appeared harmless, but SAPD watching through street-corner cameras were suspicious.

Sure enough, a heated exchange began between two people. Officers were dispatched in time to break up the argument and prevent what could have been a fight, a stabbing or even a shooting.

On Commerce Street, the cameras caught a man with his legs stretched out drinking something out of a brown paper bag. Police moved in on bikes.

There was certainly nothing dangerous there, but not what police want visitors to see downtown.

The cameras catch a lot more than arguments and criminal mischief. They have sent people to jail for such things as assault, drug crimes and outstanding warrants, according to McManus.

"I think the cameras have been effective," McManus said.

He said one officer can monitor eight cameras, saving manpower. And that the first three years of the cameras have been successful.

"There have been over 1,300 charges that have been attributed to those cameras," McManus said.

In the past, the cameras have recorded a man getting struck in the face by another man downtown. His assailant was caught. So was a man trying to steal a bike and a man spraying graffiti on a bus stop.

In central San Antonio, which includes downtown, crimes such as assault, robbery, burglary of a vehicle and graffiti are down this year compared to last year. Narcotics arrests are up. But theft, vehicle theft, home burglary and murder are up.

"We're looking to install 24 more right now. We're looking for funding," McManus said.

He warns people coming downtown with criminal intentions, that someone may be watching.

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