Oxford visitors will be watched

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – You may not see them, but they’ll see you.
This summer, Oxford officials hope to have several cameras and some additional decoy cameras installed around the downtown Square, giving police a literal heads-up on accidents, crimes or crowd-control issues in the busy restaurant-and-bar area.
Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson did not specifically mention rowdy football fans during the discussion of cameras at Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, but the memory of postgame crowds in downtown Oxford was implied.
“We’ve got a lot of activity coming this fall, and I just feel like we need to move forward with this,” he said.
It was crowd-control issues after the University of Mississippi’s home football game with Louisiana State University in 2009 that prompted the creation of Oxford Police Department’s horse-mounted patrol.
“The purpose of a horse patrol is to have a calming effect on a crowd,” said Lt. Chris Robertson, a member of the four-man equestrian police team. The advantage of the view and the visibility atop a horse is “just another tool,” he said – just as the cameras will be.
Both horse patrols and cameras will have ample testing this fall, when Ole Miss hosts seven home football games, including LSU and three other SEC opponents.
Patterson said according to FBI advice on equipment and placement, the city may spend about $50,000 for the camera system, which will include both working and dummy cameras to keep would-be troublemakers uncertain of when they’re on video.
“We’re looking at eight cameras right now at about $2,600, with about that much (cost of) installation,” Patterson said.
Police Chief Mike Martin said running optic-fiber cable to feed into monitors is another expense.
“The cost is in getting that video feed where you can see it,” he said.
The Board of Aldermen is expected to vote on the camera proposal on April 19.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@journalinc.com.