NEW ORLEANS -- The Project NOLA crime camera network began in 2009 when surveillance camera network supplier Bryan Lagarde began installing and networking cameras largely in the French Quarter. The system has now grown to more than 500 surveillance cameras, with Lagarde claiming it is the largest, high-definition crime camera network in the country.
Other cities have more cameras networked, but not all are high definition. Plus, other private companies have extensive networks. For example, Louisiana State University has more than 300 networked on its Baton Rouge campus.
Lagarde’s for-profit corporation, headquartered at the same location in Harahan as Project NOLA, is CCTV Wholesalers, a subsidiary of his original company, Kinder Guard, LLC. The Internal Revenue Service granted him 501c3 non-profit status for Project NOLA in October of this year.
When he first started, Lagarde gave away 150 cameras to people largely in the French Quarter to install on their homes to create the foundation for the Project NOLA network. Since then, Lagarde began charging residents $295 for the camera and an installation kit, however, he insists people can become part of the Project NOLA network if they want using any type of camera that they choose to buy.
Lagarde says the $295 price tag for the “Project NOLA camera kit” is half its actual price thanks to a “corporate match donation.” He insists that he donates a matching amount toward the price of the kit, although he’s the one who sets the price because, again, he owns the company selling the cameras.
This is a breakdown on CCTV Wholesalers’ website for the Project NOLA camera kit: “Pro-Grade 1.3MP Camera: Normally $419.95. Up to 75% off depending on applicable corp-match donations.
Router Configuration: Normally $75.00. Included.Up to 2 hours of future router support: $150 Savings: Included. 50' CAT5e cable, POE, and other accessories: Normally $100. Included.”
“The true cost of what we do is well over $300. It's really closer to $600. So, basically we're providing, we are providing, using profits that we have here in our own personal money to bring down what usually would cost a lot more money all the way down to $295,” Lagarde said.
We found a camera with the same specifications for $158.95 on Amazon.com. 50 foot CAT5e cables are less than $10, POE or Power over Ethernet injectors are anywhere from $10 to $50. Without knowing the other equipment Project NOLA uses to connect the cameras, it’s difficult to estimate how much the cost of the camera would be separately, but without any other equipment, the total is $218.
Other camera kits listed on CCTV Wholesalers’ website contain multiple cameras for the system, with price tags much higher: $1,279 for a four-camera system, and $1,454 for a four-camera system with higher-resolution cameras.
Until Project NOLA was granted non-profit status by the IRS, Lagarde says he and his family funded the rest of the costs of the program, including the high price of servers, maintenance and bandwidth to get the video back to his Harahan headquarters.
In all, Lagarde said he has spent $300,000 of his own money to launch the Project NOLA surveillance system, a cost estimate that includes his “corporate match donations” or discounts on the cameras.
And while Lagarde wouldn’t say how much the bandwidth costs or the maintenance costs for his computers and servers, he did say it is a very expensive proposition.
“The people here behind you actually work for our company. Our company provides in-kind donations to Project NOLA,” Lagarde said, without any employees on staff at Project NOLA.
Lagarde announced the first big donation received by Project NOLA in October. It was a $10,000 donation from a company in the Leonidas neighborhood to install 40 cameras in the area.
Project NOLA doesn’t install the cameras. But they do recommend another company, called Sure Shot Video Solutions, owned by Craig Lange, to do the work.
Enter the Harahan headquarters of both Project NOLA and CCTV Wholesalers and surveillance cameras surround the building. Once inside, there are many more, some for sale, some keeping watch on the high-dollar equipment for sale. Lagarde is always seen wearing a Project NOLA button-up shirt, as are his handful of employees.
While Lagarde says he’s hesitant to talk about the services he has provided because he doesn’t want to appear to be looking for “kudo points”, CCTV Wholesalers’ website says “Project NOLA has provided free state-of-the-art audio/video interview systems for the NOPD, special surveillance electronics to detectives and may provide special logistical assistance and support to requesting officers, rank and detectives. At current, we are working on building our own mobile crisis command center, which will provide vital assistance when needed.”
We asked Lagarde why he would provide so much equipment, time, work and services to a city that he neither lives or works in. “Why would you do that?” WWL-TV asked. “Why shouldn’t I do it? I’m just doing it to help,” Lagarde replied.