BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Lieutenant Jason Redden of Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department said he will seek nearly $70,000 in grant monies through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, a federal program which aims to reduce violent crime, including gun crime, following the regular meeting of Raleigh County Commission on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. Commissioners approved his request to apply for the grant.

Redden said the money will used to buy mobile cameras, for law enforcement officers to set up at various points around Raleigh County.

“It’s basically a tool to help us combat the gun crime, or any other violent crime, or any crime for that matter, and it gives us more eyes out on the street because, as you all know, it’s hard to hire people. It’s hard to find law enforcement officers,” Lt. Redden said on Tuesday.

The cities of Beckley and Bluefield already employ the use of cameras for law enforcement purposes.

Lt. Redden said the cameras will not be monitored daily but will be used to help pick out vehicles and suspects after a crime has been committed.

“We can query the camera system and see if it has a male subject wearing an orange jacket and blue jeans, and it will give us any images of male subjects wearing an orange jacket and blue jeans,” Lt. Redden offered, to illustrate. “And we can research that, see if we can identify them, see if either they were a suspect, or, they weren’t.”

Raleigh County Sheriff Jim Canaday said the use of cameras in police work, and other walks of American life, is commonplace.

“The public expects things like body cameras, those things have become more common,” Sheriff Canaday said on Wednesday, November 8, 2023. “We have cell phones. We basically have portable cameras on us all the time and for investigative purposes, they’re very beneficial.”
The sheriff said law enforcement agencies are sensitive to private citizens’ concerns for privacy and take steps to protect it. He added that law enforcement officers are not using the cameras to nab speeders or to “catch” people in compromising situations.

He acknowledged that data captured on law enforcement surveillance cameras is available for the public and journalists to request recordings under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which could raise questions about who has access to the surveillance.

Sheriff Canaday pointed out that attorneys choose whether or not to honor a FOIA request.