In a two-story building at the University of New Orleans, over 10,000 video feeds from communities across the country are streaming at the speed of light.
A small staff is watching these feeds, studying gang members and tracking drug deals in small towns and major cities.
It's called Project NOLA, the largest network of community crime cameras in the U.S., and the only nonprofit in the security industry.
"Just like the Red Cross and CrimeStoppers, we are in the business of helping people," said Executive Director Bryan Lagarde. "Because we aren't focused on turning a profit, people trust us with their privacy, and we are effective."
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The project started in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to help the police department at a time when crime was surging and officers' homes were destroyed. Today, it's expanded to a nationwide operation.
"The cameras are literally coast-to-coast," Lagarde said. "From California, Florida, New Jersey and many points in between."
With agencies struggling for manpower all over the U.S., Project NOLA's security cameras are able to fill in the gaps by putting more eyes on high crime areas.
"The job is tough," Lagarde said. "We see some of the worst that humanity has to offer, but part of what makes it worth it is knowing that we're helping justice be served."
Using AI, the cameras alert Project NOLA if they pick up illegal activity and Project NOLA can inform law enforcement. Authorities can also review video after a crime is committed to find suspects and use as evidence in court.
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"The cameras don't lie," Lagarde said. "If someone says I didn't commit this crime, I was at my mom's house, the camera says no you did commit this crime and you weren't at your mom's house."
Through donations, Project NOLA provides high-end security cameras to homeowners, businesses, schools, churches, etc. for free. Clients only have to pay an annual fee of about $300 for cloud storage.
"Business owners and residents are realizing the importance to help their local law enforcement," Largarde said. "It's a community effort, especially with manpower issues right now in law enforcement, it's virtually impossible for them to do alone."
This year, Lagarde says the cameras have already helped law enforcement on hundreds of cases. With New Orleans claiming the title of "Murder Capital of America" for 2022, business owners say the cameras are crucial.
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The Three Legged Dog, a tavern in the French Quarter, was the first business to receive a Project NOLA camera at its inception. The bar sits at the corner of one of the busiest streets in the tourist district.
"Over the last decade, these cameras have helped NOPD on hundreds of crimes in the French Quarter," said bar owner Tim Blake. "I could not run my business without them."
A few blocks down on Royal Street, Valobra Jewelry & Antiques hosts some of the newest Project NOLA cameras.
"A few months ago, the camera I had installed outside my jewelry store was used to identify an assailant who held someone at knife point in the French Quarter," Owner Franco Valobra said. "The face recognition technology recognized his face and he was arrested."
Project NOLA says the face recognition software is only used in cities where that technology is legal. Most video feeds are also only stored for 10 days, unless a crime is captured.
"We do not monetize any of our data," Lagarde said. "We don't sell it. We don't share it. Any video is only given to law enforcement."