Extra funding boosts surveillance in Reedley

City of Reedley takes advantage of funding earmark to implement community surveillance program in key areas

An example of an outdoor surveillance camera on a lamp post as it is being used for security and protection purposes. (Oleg on AdobeStock.)
An example of an outdoor surveillance camera on a lamp post as it is being used for security and protection purposes. (Oleg on AdobeStock.)
Serena Bettis
Published April 2, 2024  • 
1:00 pm

REEDLEY – Leftover funding earmarked in the state budget for public safety in Reedley is being put to use through an update to the city’s community surveillance program.

The Reedley City Council approved the installation of the community video policing project at its March 26 meeting on a 3-0 vote, with Mayor Anita Betancourt and Councilmember Mary Fast absent. The council also agreed to amend the 2023-24 budget to pay for additional program costs.

“The city currently has a community surveillance, also known as a video policing, program in place,” Assistant City Manager Paul Melikian said. “It’s limited in scope, primarily because of the cost of the system, as well as the network requirements of having cameras out in various places in the community, so this project tonight would essentially expand upon that existing system.” 

The main idea behind the program is that it will be a “fully-networked, secure surveillance system” that will allow authorized police, fire and other city personnel access to view real-time and archived video footage of various locations throughout the city, Melikian said.

This can help the city respond to emergencies, pinpoint locations where more traffic law enforcement is necessary, investigate reported criminal activity, deter vandalism and more. 

Although the city will not be able to review every single video feed at all times, the camera software can help the city manage its resources by alerting whoever is reviewing the feeds to motion detected on specific cameras. 

Melikian said the city “looked inward” and engaged in a collaborative project with the police, fire and public works department, as well as the code enforcement officer, to assess where surveillance cameras would do the most good. 

Targeted areas included hotspots for vandalism, traffic concerns, past and current gang activity and city facilities that are considered “sensitive assets” like city hall, the police station and the wastewater treatment plant. 

“This is really being driven by our smart policing that we have,” Melikian said. “Our police department is very sensitive to where things need to be addressed and (given) the most attention, so this really helps us multiply our police presence without having to have that particular physical officer on that corner.”

Existing cameras at the Reedley Sports Park, Camacho Park, Reedley Beach and the city jail will be upgraded and replaced, and cameras will be installed at 14 additional locations throughout the city. 

New cameras are planned to go up at four intersections: Manning Avenue and Buttonwillow Avenue, Manning and North Columbia Avenue, Manning and Reed Avenue and I Street and 11th Avenue. Three downtown parking lots will also receive cameras.

Other cameras will be installed at Pioneer Park, Citizens Park, Cricket Hollow, Luke Trimble Park, the Reedley Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Reedley Municipal Airport and a water treatment facility near the sports park.

Police Cmdr. Marc Ediger said that while he could think of 30 more locations where cameras could go, these locations will be greatly beneficial for the department. He added that a goal for the future is to continue to build up the surveillance system.

The cameras are high-quality, with a resolution of 1,520 megapixels, and are all-weather and vandal proof to a reasonable extent. The system will store the video data for approximately 30 days.

Melikian said the city is purchasing the equipment from Fresno-based company Surveillance Integration, which is the same vendor Reedley uses for its current surveillance system. 

Given that the city already has Surveillance Integration’s proprietary software in place, employees know how to use the system and it is a highly specialized field, “we felt that that was enough of a justification to stick with this vendor on the sole source,” Melikian said.

The city was also able to use its preexisting relationship with the vendor to negotiate a lower price for the number of cameras it wanted to install, Melikian said.

Most of the funding for the project comes from a budget earmark submitted in 2020 on behalf of Reedley by State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, who represented the city at that time, Melikian said. The city had received $1.5 million in the 2022-23 state budget for “updating outdated community equipment for police and fire departments.” 

While the city’s intention was to use that funding to build and expand the height of the city’s public safety communications tower, the earmark did not specify that that was the only project the city could use the funding on. 

After the city completed its communications tower project last year, it had $180,654 leftover from the earmark, which will now go toward the purchase and installation of the surveillance cameras, as well as signage that will alert the public to the cameras.

The total cost of the new project is $254,037, with $73,383 coming out of different city funds as approved by the Reedley City Council. 

Due to the placement of some of the surveillance cameras, the city is able to use money from the water, wastewater and airport enterprise funds to pay for a portion of that additional cost, with the rest coming out of the general facilities development impact fee fund.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter