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DCHA Looks to Increase Safety Through Surveillance

Last Tuesday, the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) unveiled their new Office of Public Safety Command Center at 1133 North Capitol St. NE and announced a new surveilance system being piloted throughout DCHA communities.

Public Safety Chief Joel Maupin said the goal was to increase safety and security within the communities. He said the new technology is an “investment” in improving community policing.

“We are committed to the prevention of crime, the protection of life and property and the preservation of peace and safety in and around public housing in the District of Columbia,” Maupin said.

Maupid said that DCHA works hand-in-hand with Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and that the new technology will allow for better collaboration between MPD, DCHA and other federal agencies to monitor a vast variety of areas with a smaller staff. That can help ensure the safety of residents and law enforcement officers, he said.

The surveillance, however, is not only used for security. DCHA executive director Tyrone Garrett emphasized that this surveillance can also be used for maintenance of these properties.

“At any point, I can look at the particular property in question and make a determination whether or not there’s a need for any maintenance based on curb appeal, or other issues that may come up that might be law enforcement attention,” Garrett said.

The system also includes a comprehensive command center with live footage of each property. Employees at the center are able to watch live feed and playback older events to help identify and prevent criminal activity and maintenance surveillance.

In an interiew, Garrett told Hill Rag that feedback from residents at DCHA continually emphasized the need for an increased police presence and that the community is pleased with the program as a whole. In the future, Garrett said he hopes the team of law enforcement and DCHA can expand this surveillance to all of its public housing properties across the District.

COVID Safe Workspaces

New DCHA workspaces include printers, scanners and computers. DCHA ED Tyrone Garrett stands to the left. Photo: Sarah Payne

In addition to the new surveillance program, DCHA introduced their customer solution center. Completed last year, the spaces had to remain under wraps due to COVID. When it is safe, they provide DCHA residents with safe, socially distanced access to the computers and technology they need, including printers, scanners and computers separated by plexiglass which will allow individuals to conduct personal business safely and efficiently.

The Apprenticeship Training Program (ATP) also operates out of the DCHA headquarters and serves to provide guidance and training to skilled workers at different jobs and tasks. Currently, more than 100 individuals have undergone the training and have graduated from the program with great jobs. The agency is gearing up to hire new apprentices this year.

“The idea of this program was to train them in some way, and what better opportunity to give to them than real actual live work,” Garrett said.

Garrett emphasized and praised the work of his team at DCHA for the creation of these spaces and apprenticeship programs.

“In unprecedented times during a pandemic, we were able to show our worth in the community,” Garrett said, “I don’t believe that our agency lost a beat when the pandemic first hit, we kept running in order to provide services to our customers, because at that time, and still continuing today, they need us and for us to be able to operate at almost 100% on a daily basis.”

Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at sarahp@hillrag.com.

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