Residents in the 22nd Police District are being asked by Chicago police to volunteer to monitor cop surveillance cameras.
The cameras, formally called Police Observation Devices, or PODs, are mounted on streetlights in neighborhoods and used by police to spot illegal activity, including loitering, drug dealing and other crimes.
City police Officer Joe Hurley announced that police are looking for POD monitors during a recent Beat 2222 CAPS meeting.
The 22nd District is bounded by West 87th Street, West 119th Street, South Cicero Avenue and South Stewart Avenue.
Hurley says the cameras are stationed at the 22nd District Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) office at 1900 W. Monterey.
Volunteers will be assigned to monitor up to six of the 18 POD cameras for a minimum of one hour starting at 2 p.m. from Monday through Friday while the CAPS office is open.
Hurley says it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to learn the system and no computer skills are required.
Police could not immediately say how many citizens volunteer to monitor the PODs.
The Chicago Police Department unveiled a revolutionary pilot program using PODs in 2003, aimed at reducing crime in Chicago’s most violence prone communities.
Each POD is equipped with a flashing blue lights on top, the city police's trademark checkerboard markings and a large Chicago Police logo, designed to ensure that they are highly visible.
Morgan Park resident Marcus Roebuck, 33, has been monitoring the PODs every Wednesday for nearly two months. He started volunteering to help solve gang and drug problems in the community.
He says volunteering also gave him “a chance to see how other people act by watching and seeing what’s going on in the streets.”
Roebuck praised the cameras, but says they do have limitations. Although he monitors four to six cameras at his station, he can only watch on one camera at a time.
During one of his monitoring sessions, Roebuck says he witnessed students with sticks, bats and other makeshift weapons at the bus stop in front of Julian High School at 10330 S. Elizabeth. He called the sergeant to inform him of the situation. The youths dropped their weapons and scattered when the police arrived. No injuries were reported, he says.
He says that cameras “can stop crime, but they can’t do everything.”
Teens age 16 and older are welcome to work for community service hours, Hurley said, but must be accompanied by an adult. Background checks will be conducted on prospective volunteers.
Volunteers may also participate in POD missions where the officer in charge will contact 911 and inform them that a certain area is being watched.
If suspicious or criminal activity is witnessed, the watcher will notify the officer, and 911 will send squad cars immediately.
To volunteer, call 312-745-0620.