By Pat Warren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Beefing up security. Baltimore businesses are allowing police to access their private security systems.

Pat Warren has more on how this system works.

All you have to do is sign up. It’s completely voluntary.

Ten years ago, this part of west Baltimore lived up to its reputation.

“Back then, the drug activity was open air market,” said business owner James Hamlin.

The neighborhood made famous by HBO’s gritty crime drama The Wire became synonymous with gang activity and violence–an image that bakery owner James Hamlin says has been hard to shake, even as the area has improved.

“Perception is not the reality. But as you know, perception is reality,” he said.

Which is why Hamlin says he signed up for a new program that allows the police to use footage from his shop’s private security cameras, hoping better surveillance will deter crime and help revitalize his street.

“The idea was to make folks understand that we can bring business back to Pennsylvania Avenue, and it can be safe,” said Hamlin.

Baltimore already has almost 700 security cameras across the city.

“We also know that when he have cameras, it gives us the ability to multiply the forces out on the street,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

The mayor says the CitiWatch Community Partnership has the potential to quadruple the size of its network. Participation is completely voluntary–police cannot access the cameras remotely and owners can say no at anytime.

Eddie Lewis has owned his Pennsylvania Avenue hardware store for 18 years. All 24 of his cameras are registered with police.

“It may save a life, you never know,” said Lewis.

Since its launch in October, 26 people have signed up for the program, providing 178 additional cameras.

Crime cameras were first installed in Baltimore in 2005. There were fewer than 200 of them.

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