Safe-Cam system helps find suspect in downtown La Crosse shooting

Police searching for those involved in the downtown La Crosse shooting didn’t have to look very far. In fact, all law enforcement officials had to do is head over to their computers.

The Safe-Cam system brings together the feeds from public and private cameras around La Crosse. Police said the system helps them find suspects and collect evidence quickly when every second counts.

Before the Safe-Cam system was put in place, there was nothing. That changed after a double homicide at May’s Photo on Main Street in September 2012.

“When we conducted the investigation into the May’s homicide, we ended up using multiple sources of privately owned cameras,” said Capt. Jason Melby of the La Crosse Police Department.

But it took a lot of resources to track down all of the cameras in the area, get the footage and process it.

“And then, we would have tried to go locate our suspect to make sure we got the right person,” Melby said.

But that could take days– time they don’t have. So the La Crosse City Vision Foundation raised funds to get the system in place.

“As members of the public, we took the initiative to get this program off the ground and took the initiative to get the funding for it,” said Mike Keil, a board member of the La Crosse City Vision Foundation.

They started off with 33 cameras, but the system has now expanded to about 100 feeds.

“They were hoping that Safe-Cam would be a crime deterrent. And the second is that if a crime did occur, they would want police to have readily accessible video in order to make a quick arrest,” Keil said.

That’s exactly what the police did early Sunday morning. They were able to look at the footage from the nearby cameras and verify witness statements to find a suspect.

“They had an arrest within two hours of the crime. So, it did exactly what we wanted it to do,” Keil said.

Officials with the La Crosse City Vision Foundation said it is working on expanding the Safe-Cam system. The organization is hoping to create a camera route that includes the downtown area with Viterbo University and UW-La Crosse campuses.

The group hasn’t started fundraising for the expanded routes. Members of the foundation had a goal of raising nearly half a million dollars to get the initial project up and running.