OXFORD – Oxford police got to see just how useful the city’s new downtown surveillance system can be over the past week.
The 10 cameras show areas around the square and on nearby streets close to bars. They came in handy when a fight broke out just outside the Lyric Theater – a disturbance that made headlines for the fact that University of Mississippi quarterback Randall Mackey was arrested afterward.
“When all that broke out Monday night, we were able to zoom in and see what was happening,” said Chief Mike Martin of the Oxford Police Department. “I could identify which officer I was looking at, and it was even a good enough picture to identify other people.”
In fist-fights, combatants are often eager to file charges against each other, but when a fight resumes later as an ambush – “a beatdown,” Martin calls it – it can leave serious injuries and no witnesses.
“[The victim doesn’t] remember who did it, and nobody wants to come forward,” Martin said. “Hopefully if something like that happens again, we’ll be able to identify who did it and who saw it.”
Several times in recent years, crowds on SEC football weekends have almost gotten out of hand. Such incidents prompted creation of the city’s equestrian patrol last year, as well as the surveillance system.
Martin hopes the high-tech enhancements in policing will prevent far more crimes than they solve, especially when it eventually goes online, much like MDOT’s system of traffic cameras that show potential trouble spots on highways statewide.
“People know they’re up and running,” Martin said. “Knowing you can’t hardly get away with something ought to make you think twice.”
Oxford Emergency Management Director Jimmy Allgood says the camera system can also help monitor street and utility conditions in storms. He adds that it could end up as yet another way to publicize Oxford as a destination, especially during festivals, races and other events.
“It’s going to make it safer for our nighttime crowds that visit the Square, but it’s also going to help promote us when people can go online and see what’s happening downtown.”
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal