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ONLY ON 3: Specially trained officers run downtown cameras only on special occassions

READ MORE: ONLY ON 3: Specially trained officers run downtown cameras only on special occassions

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- From September 2009 to May 2010, the Wilmington Police Department responded to about 5,000 calls just in the central business district and a number of those dealt with property damage, including tire slashing, like what happened Friday night when someone slashed the tires on 18 cars downtown.

Today we took a look at video from the WPD's surveillance cameras from that night. From the peak hours of 10 p.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday, the camera that sits on the corner of Dock and 2nd Streets did not pan, zoom or move. Police that's routine. On weekends, the nine cameras are monitored by one officer. It's only when Downtown Wilmington has special events, such as Halloween or the Azalea Ffestival, when trained officers actively use the cameras.

"Someone that's specifically trained to operate the systems basically makes for a better view," Lt. Ed Pigford said. "They're looking for specific events. If they see something that's suspicious in nature, they may view and they may zoom in."

Pigford says the cameras are effective despite the fact they did not catch a glimpse of the offender or offenders who slashed the tires this weekend.

"It is a valuable tool," he said. "And with the proper preventative tools added to it, it can be more valuable."

Tools, Pigford said, like better lighting and signs indicating the presence of cameras.

"That sign is there to decrease the likelihood of someone committing a crime in that location," he said.

Wilmington Downtown, Inc., executive director John Hinnant agrees.

"Better lighting goes a long way when you're trying to prevent and deter crime and bad behavior," Hinnant said.

According to City of Wilmington spokesperson Malissa Talbert, the city does not intend to add more lighting to the downtown area due to budget restrictions.

We tried to speak with Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous yesterday and today about his budget and resources, especially the cameras in the wake of the vandalism over the weekend. Police department spokeswoman Lucy Crockett told us both times Evangelous was too busy to talk with us. Later she e-mailed us to say, "If we need to make a compelling case for the chief to rearrange his schedule, please let me know."

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