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Chico police fight crime with technology

The department wants to implement surveillance cameras and license plate trackers to catch more criminals - especially because the budget is too tight to higher the needed number of officers.

Posted: Jun 25, 2019 2:17 PM
Updated: Jun 26, 2019 8:59 AM

CHICO, Calif.- The Chico Police Department is in a tough spot.

"Typically if you see an increase like after the Camp Fire - 19,000 people - you would add 25 police officers. We don't have the money to do that," said Chief of Police Mike O'Brien.

Crime is actually down 7% since the Camp Fire, but many community members feel there's room for improvement.

"I think the quality of life is not what it used to be," Brian Doran, who lives in Chico.

So, city leaders are moving in a new direction.

"We believe cameras do have a positive effect in deterring crime and catching criminals," O'Brien said.

"It's a win-win, we're increasing public safety, doing things to help solve crimes better and faster and we're not adding to the deficit with somebody we're going to have to pay retirement on for the next 4- to 50 years," said City Councilmember Kasey Reynolds.

While some are hopeful about these new ideas, others say they'd rather see more boots on the ground than eyes in the sky.

"I think it's a great idea, using technology to increase surveillance is a wonderful solution," said Shawna Sorenson, who lives in Chico.

"I think that's sort of dystopian future that we have if we go that route, there's no officer discretion in a camera," said Jim, who lives in Chico.

"I don't think that's the answer, I'm sure it could work but I'm not somebody that wants to have cameras all over the place," Dorin said.

"We have to have our police officer, dispatchers, staff. We have to have them. But how can we functionally make them more effective? And I think video cameras, ALPRs do help them do their jobs more effectively," O'Brien said. 

Chief O'Brien says the department is adding 6 new officers this fiscal year.

The money for the equipment will come from grants and the department's own savings.

Below is a breakdown of the crime decrease in Chico from 2018-2019. 

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