wjxt logo

St. Augustine eyes in the sky help police fight crime

Partnership between police, National Park Service, businesses paying off

Photo does not have a caption

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A network of 20 surveillance cameras around St. Augustine is already credited with helping catch criminals, and the St. Augustine Police Department, in partnership with the National Park Service and area businesses, is hoping to grow the number of cameras.

The cameras, part of a system known as Wildfire, provide police a bird's eye view around the historic district 24/7.

About six weeks ago, one of the cameras recorded as someone fired shots outside a popular downtown bar. 

No one was shot, but police two people were hurt by shrapnel. Video from camera gave police a clear image of the gunman leaving the area in a car, giving police what they needed to track down Taveon Hodges, who had fled to Ohio. He now faces three felony charges.

"The cameras were so clear we were able to get a tag number and a visual," St. Augustine Officer Dee Brown said. "Without the cameras, it almost would have been impossible to find the suspect."

That’s why police are working to grow the camera network with help from local business owners. 

"They purchase a camera and we monitor the system for them," Brown said. "So it is a win-win for everyone: the community, the business and the citizens of St. Augustine."

Sangrias Tapas and Wine Bar had a Wildfire camera installed outside the restaurant about six months ago. Co-owner Kelley Nielsen calls it a worthwhile investment.

"It’s a bit out of the pocket, but I don’t care. I think in the long run it is well worth doing," Nielsen said.

About the Author:

Florida-born multi-media journalist pays special attention to issues in St. Johns County.