Ever wonder about those police surveillance cameras you see around downtown and throughout Memphis? This month we asked Colonel Gloria Bullock, Commander of the Memphis Police Department's North Main Station (NMS) about them. Here's what she said.

There are approximately 75 cameras in the downtown area. They run continuously and include a combination of permanent and moveable cameras. The permanent cameras are on poles throughout downtown. The moveable cameras are the large trailer cameras currently located on Carolina and Riverside. Colonel Bullock and her team are responsible for deciding where these moveable cameras are placed and when they are moved. They decide based on their crime stats. "If the stats go down in that area and rise in another, I will move the camera to address the higher crime area," says Commander Bullock.

Police officers are conducting data driven crime analysis daily and identifying "hot point" areas. "The stats tell us where crime is happening, during what hour and what type of crime. It lets us know where to move the troops and equipment to better quell the activity."

The cameras are controlled by the Real Time Crime Center, or RTCC, which is a separate division not under the command of the NMS. The RTCC is staffed 24-7 in 3 shifts with at least 15 staff per shift reviewing the camera footage. Copies of camera recordings are often made for detective bureaus, and there are several officers assigned to RTCC that monitor the live footage. If the RTCC officers spot anything that needs to be addressed, they contact NMS officers by radio. Supervisors at NMS are also able to view most of the cameras' feed along with the RTCC officers.

"The cameras, to me, are invaluable. They have helped solve several crimes through suspect identification," says Commander Bullock. "The cameras themselves can be a crime deterrent."

However, cameras are machines, and machines can break down and stop recording. They can also be blocked by a physical object. They are also very expensive. "Nothing beats a live witness. Cameras are merely a tool. It’s the officers that address and solve crimes, and even they cannot fix everything in today’s society."

So while cameras help deter and solve crime, they aren't the panacea. Remember basic safety tips, particularly in the midst of this busy festival season. Stay alert and aware of your environment at all times. Park and walk in well-lit areas and don't leave valuables in cars. And if you spot something suspicious, call the police station. Stay safe downtowners!