Asset Protection finds a way to fund cameras in Flint

Thursday, August 14, 2008

FLINT, Mich.--Asset Protection Specialists made national headlines last week with its plan to get private entities to sponsor a public surveillance system for the city's crime-ridden areas. Called the "Adopt a PODSS" (portable overt digital surveillance system) program, businesses or individuals could get their logo or name on surveillance cameras posted throughout the city, for a price of $30,000 per camera.
Asset Protection has even got the city's Web site to post a Paypal link for individuals to donate small amounts to the cause.
It's all part of a patented work method his company has developed, said Brian Berg, the company's founder and a working police officer. "We're targeting cities that don't have any money, working with them to find homeland security money, private business donations, using forfeiture funds--we're getting the money for the police departments."
This relatively radical business model--The Safe City initiative, headed by Target and implemented by Security Corp. in nearby Flint Township is another example of private entities buying cameras that are then integrated into the police system--attracted some national commentary. Josh Chamberlin of Common Cause think tank told the Flint Journal he was concerned that wealthy communities would get more coverage, for example.
Asset Protection is about more than just system sales, however. Berg said he's teaming with a non-profit called Humanity for Humanity, which is a research organization that provides data for communities looking to emerge from poverty.
"We provide the theoretical basis for the kinds of things that should occur to change the character of urban America," said James Smith, the organization's executive director. He said cameras in high-crime areas have been shown to take street crime "down to zero." However, he notes that weeds and chipping paint are the highest correlators with crime in an area, so there is more than one way to fix a problem.
Berg acknowledges that cameras merely displace crime, and don't eliminate it, but he said, "we're going to displace it right out of the city, right out of the county," and Asset Protection is in the process of writing a grant for mobile surveillance units that will allow the cameras to move with the crime.