Soon there will be more eyes watching people in the city of Merced.
The city is installing a $93,000, eight-camera video surveillance system meant to prevent crime downtown.
Not yet online, the system will be part of a wider net of cameras monitored by the Merced Police Department.
The network will include video surveillance at three Merced high schools as well as private businesses that want to be part of the system, say city officials and the Police Department.
"Think of the cameras as an extra police officer who's available to watch over particular locations," city spokesman Mike Conway said.
Despite the city's efforts to increase public safety and prevent vandalism, civil liberties groups and several studies have questioned the effectiveness of surveillance cameras. The growing use of video surveillance also has raised worries about the civil rights implications of an increasingly watchful government.
The council voted unanimously for the cameras in June of this year after directing staff to look into procuring a system.
The system will be integrated with the city's existing cameras and surveillance systems. For instance, police cars have cameras that turn on when the cars reach a certain speed or when they turn on their emergency lights, police spokesman Lt. Andre Matthews said.
Six portable still cameras already are in some parks and other areas with motion detectors to deter and record vandals, Matthews said.
The Police Department also is looking into installing cameras at some intersections to record accidents and catch people who run red lights.
Jeff Lewis, the city's information technology director, said a group of city staffers visited cities that already have cameras in place.
He said in several cases crimes were caught on tape, including a shooting, shoplifting, graffiti tagging and attacks. He said the footage helped in making arrests.
Thirty-seven cities have some type of video surveillance, including Fresno.
Several recent studies show that the presence of cameras has had little or no effect on preventing crime, said the American Civil Liberties Union, which has issued several reports on video surveillance.