By Ted Scouten

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When looters tried to break into a Downtown Miami CVS, another group blocked them from getting in.

Miami police were already in the loop when they arrived to break it up.

Live cameras located nearby, and monitored in the Real Time Crime Center, let arriving officers know who was trying to protect the store and who was trying to break in.

“We were able to differentiate in real time on the radio, advising these people are OK on the right side and the agitators were dressed the way they were dressed,” explained Maj. Jose Rodriguez, with the Miami Police Department. “We’re calling them out as the officers are arriving.”

There are 364 cameras positioned around Miami, which can all be monitored at the police station.

As chaos broke out in front of police headquarters on Saturday, and cars were torched, police were able to gather real time information quickly.

“I think that having the cameras it gave us perspective of where the demonstrators were at. If it wasn’t for the cameras we wouldn’t know what part of the station they’re at, the north, to the south, the east, west. We have a 360 eye view of the station,” said Rodriguez.

While the cameras are critical when hotspots erupt, they play a huge role during the majority of the time when peaceful protests are going on.

While giving demonstrators space, police can still monitor for signs of trouble or know where to clear traffic to keep anyone from getting hit.

“If it wasn’t for the cameras, whether they’re our cameras, county, FDOT, we wouldn’t know the flow of pedestrian traffic as they move,” the major said. “We wouldn’t be able to anticipate something as simple as closing streets so they don’t get hit by a car.”

While there are 364 cameras around town currently, the plan is to get that number up to 400 relatively soon and then expand even more after that.

Ted Scouten