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Project Blue Light now alerting anti-crime efforts in two Wayne County suburbs

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Two Wayne County suburbs have begun using of a police surveillance system at businesses designed to deter and identify lawbreakers and make owners and citizens feel safe.

Charles Lackey III, director of information technology for Highland Park, said Friday that Project Blue Light was launched Jan. 15 at Sunrise Cleaners on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park and in November at the Ecorse Market on Visger Street in Ecorse. It employs a flashing blue light to alert passers-by that a special anti-crime effort is being employed there. 

“We are excited about this and businesses are interested; more than 45 have signed up,” said Lackey. “It’s like having extra eyes out there at all times. It’s another tool to help improve public safety for everyone.”

A blinking blue light can be seen on the roof of Ecorse Market in Highland Park. The anti-crime effort Project Blue Light was launched Jan. 15 at Sunrise Cleaners on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, and in November at the Ecorse Market.

Project Blue Light, loosely modeled after Project Green Light in Detroit, plans to install about 75 surveillance cameras at businesses, with live video feeds being transmitted for remote monitoring by police officers in public safety buildings and patrol cars. The videos can be replayed to help police investigate crimes and witnesses identify suspects.

Detroit's program has not been without controversy since it was launched in 2016. Green Light participants are promised enhanced police patrols, although some merchants have complained that Green Light locations got more police attention than businesses that weren't in the program. Police officials have insisted that's not true.

Lackey said a single business installation usually involves about four cameras at a cost of $2,000, which is paid by the business. The rest, including city-operated equipment, is funded by the state’s Financially Distressed Cities fund grant, Lackey said.

“Not one cent has come from our city. In the future, there may be a monthly assessment to businesses in the Blue Light system to cover maintenance costs.”

Lackey said Phase Two will involve adding additional technology to permit business owners to monitor their establishments and advise them if an alarm is triggered.

“Phase 3 will involve a virtual police officer option,” he said. “There will be outdoor speakers and a two-way microphone system where police can communicate with citizens or employees.”

Lackey said there were initial concerns about personal privacy, leading to facial recognition software being left out of the project.

“The only complaint I have heard so far are some people don’t like a continuously flashing blue light,” he said. “We are attempting to install them in a way that the light flashes into the street rather than someone’s window.”

Lackey said no incidents or arrests related to Project Blue Light have been reported yet in Highland Park.

“But it has been instrumental in a couple arrests in Ecorse,” Lackey said.

Loosely based on an initiative in Detroit, the project has plans to install about 75 surveillance cameras at businesses.

On Friday, Ecorse police referred all questions about the project or arrests to Public Safety Director Joseph Thomas Jr., who could not be reached for comment.

Yons Lixey, a counter employee at Sunshine Cleaners in Highland Park gave the program high marks, saying it promotes a feeling of safety for workers and customers alike.

“It’s very good,” Lixey said. “We like it and the customers know about it and it makes them happy. They said they fell more comfortable coming into a business with a flashing blue light.”

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