MIDDLEBURG – Will Garcia doesn’t mind if Big Brother watches. In fact, as long as it’s the Clay County Sheriff’s Office on the other end, the restaurant owner wants Big Brother to …
MIDDLEBURG – Will Garcia doesn’t mind if Big Brother watches. In fact, as long as it’s the Clay County Sheriff’s Office on the other end, the restaurant owner wants Big Brother to watch.
Garcia’s two McDonald’s franchises in Clay County were the first to join Clay Community Connect – known as C3 – to link his stores with 24-hour surveillance to the sheriff’s office.
Now Sheriff Darryl Daniels wants “all” businesses to consider doing the same.
“This type of partnership, this type of technology being leveraged is a game-changer,” Daniels said while visiting Garcia’s McDonald’s at 2485 Blanding Blvd. “Everyone, including law enforcement, has some degree of responsibility in keeping our county safe. To establish partnerships like this, whether it be a real-time crime solution, surveillance cameras at a business – or the eyes, ears. This is an enhancement of see something, say something.”
The sheriff’s office recently installed a system that would allow businesses to share their live video feeds with deputies. Stores are responsible for installing and operating their own systems, but there is no cost by the sheriff’s office to monitor the feeds, Lt. Jeff Johnson said. The sheriff’s office then would monitor those video feeds to quickly identify and react to problems.
“This thing has paid for itself tenfold in the time it takes to make justice happen,” Johnson said. “It’s reduced the time in the courts with the video. You can’t fight a video. We’re freeing up court hours.”
The software at the sheriff’s office cost less than the salary of a starting deputy, but nearly 80-percent of that was offset by grants, Johnson said.
For Daniels, it’s money that will be well-spent.
“This is the 21st century. Everybody has a computer. Everybody has a laptop,” Daniels said. “Everybody has a cell phone with access to the internet, and this is just another step in leveraging those technologies.
“If you could think, if we get the school district on board with this and tie into their camera system, hospitals, businesses, so on and so forth, that gives us the opportunity to have a deputy in place where a deputy is not in place because we have our eyes and ears in those places.”
Garcia also tied is surveillance cameras to the sheriff’s office at his restaurant at 561 Plantation Dr. in Middleburg.
“Being a business owner, the utmost importance is the safety of our customers is our responsibility,” he said. “Being able to partner with the sheriff’s office and all the great things they’re doing, helps us as business owners to contribute to the community. Keeping my crew safe is of utmost importance. It’s good to know they’re keeping an eye on my restaurant and parking lots.”
There are signs posted in the restaurant and decals on the doors assuring customers they are under 24-hour surveillance.
The Jacksonville and St. Johns County sheriff offices also are in the early stages of connecting with their businesses. Once their systems are at full speed, Daniels hopes the counties will link into each other, too.
“For us, Jacksonville and St. Johns, this is a real-time crime solution,” he said. “We’re all kind of coming up together on this. The ultimate goal is for all the different counties to tie in, interface with one another, so we can see the things that happen in Jacksonville or St. Johns County that potentially could spill over into Clay County.”
Daniels said C3 simply is another tool to keep communities safe.
“We take a hard line on criminal misconduct. I know the others do as well. We’re a little more outspoken, and for good reasons,” Daniels said. “You’re sitting on a gem in the state of Florida. You don’t want anything to intrude on that.”