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Watertown Installs Surveillance In Uptown Area

March 28, 2012, 5:57 PM by Hailey Higgins

Watertown Installs Surveillance In Uptown Area
WATERTOWN, SD -

One year after a deadly fight outside a Watertown bar, police are installing new tools to prevent it from happening again.

Wednesday, several cameras were set up overlooking parking lots and back alleys in the Uptown Bar area.

From December 2009 to February 2011, Watertown police say there were a total of 270 assaults within the city. Eighty-three of those assaults happened within the Uptown Watertown bar area alone. On March 13, 2011, 28-year-old Jerrin Stulken beat 26-year-old Justin Jaton, who later died, in a bar parking lot in the same area.

Police are now taking steps to keep an eye on and possibly deter any more aggressive behavior.

One by one, cameras are installed in a parking lot connected to several Uptown bars. There are seven cameras altogether: five still and two full-motion cameras able to pan, tilt and zoom. They're meant to keep an extra set of eyes on the assault-prone area.

"It seemed like we had a spike in assaults and we used a concept called Crime Prevention through Environmental Design. That's what the cameras are, to deter those types of things to make it safe," Detective Sergeant Tim Toomey said.

The cameras cost nearly $25,000 but Toomey says it's worth the city's investment.

"Our main goal is prevention with these cameras. Hopefully, they will see that there are cameras out there and they'll change their mind when they are considering whether they are getting in a fight or assault somebody," Toomey said.

Toomey says most of the assaults happen as people bar hop through a parking lot. And while they will not be monitored 24/7, officers are able to check in on the area's activity.

The images from both the still and movable cameras are transmitted wirelessly to the police department.

But Watertown isn't the only law enforcement agency using the technology. ESEIND Owner Matt Asche says Mobridge and Brookings County have them, too.

"I have seen a lot of smaller communities that don't have an active police force, they are putting cameras on their main streets just to see what's going on. And now we're seeing larger communities do the same thing because the price is going down," Asche said.

When a fight breaks out, police say they will use the pictures as evidence in court. Toomey says the department is committed to making the area safe.

"One assault is too much in my opinion," Toomey said.

Watertown police say they have also increased patrols and improved lighting in the area to prevent crime behind the bars.

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