Street-Level Security Cameras to Help Alleviate Poverty (and Expense)
For this crime and poverty stricken city, "It's a lot cheaper to get a camera than to outfit a police officer", said Springfield, MO Councilman Craig Hosmer. But, privacy for residents is also a concern.
Portable security cameras — set up to monitor neighborhoods, intersections and parks — could become part of the ongoing city-led effort to alleviate poverty in northwest Springfield, Missouri.
The city's proposed 2018 budget allocates $30,000 to buy "Zone Blitz security cameras," which would be placed in crime hot-spots identified by the Springfield Police Department and neighborhood associations.
The Zone Blitz project launched in July 2016 in a part of town that sees high rates of violent crime and unemployment and low rates of educational attainment and voter turnout.
City contributions to the initiative so far have included sidewalk construction, other infrastructure improvements and the opening of a north satellite office of the Missouri Career Center.
City leaders hope that portable security cameras could help police solve and deter crimes.
Each camera would retain video recordings on-site for 45 days, Police Chief Paul Williams told City Council members during a Tuesday lunch meeting.
Springfield police would access the footage, if needed, to investigate crimes, police spokesperson Lisa Cox told the News-Leader. No footage would be automatically sent to the police department for surveillance.
Williams said the security cameras are easy to move and could be mounted on and plugged into street lights.
On Tuesday, Councilman Craig Hosmer expressed support for the security cameras.
"I think that's a great idea and something we should really look at," Hosmer said. "No one wants to hire more police officers if we don't have to. I think one of the problems we have right now is we don't have a whole lot of assistance."
Williams said each camera would cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
"It's a lot cheaper to get a camera than it is to outfit a police officer," Hosmer said.
Portable security cameras could later pop up in other parts of the city, as well.
City Manager Greg Burris described the plan to put cameras in Zone 1 as a "pilot test."
"Based on our experience here, you're likely to see us grow this program pretty quickly," Burris said.
The city currently has multiple security cameras installed on and around 15 municipally owned facilities, as well as three or four public locations, according to city spokesperson Cora Scott. None of them are portable, and they record to a centralized server when they detect motion.
Pete Radecki, president of the Bissett Neighborhood Association and chair of the Neighborhood Advisory Council, said having portable security cameras as a crime deterrent was discussed while planning for the Zone Blitz project nearly two years ago.
"Anything that is going to improve the safety of a neighborhood is a good idea. And surveillance is a big part of that," Radecki said.
But he noted security cameras were not on the Neighborhood Advisory Council's priority list of recommendations for the proposed city budget.
"I'm not going to say it doesn't have support, but it doesn't have as high of support (as) other items on our list," Radecki said.
Radecki said privacy could potentially be a concern for some Zone 1 residents.
"I think that is probably a concern of virtually any security surveillance tool. If it did get pointed in some direction that recorded the comings and goings of a private individual in their house, that could create some problems," Radecki said.According to the proposed 2018 budget, there is $25,000 allocated to "Year 2 Zone Blitz funding."
Scott, the city spokesperson, explained that the $25,000 line item would mostly go toward communication materials, such as flyers and event expenses, to support partner projects.
Scott said some of that money could also be used to purchase more security cameras, since $30,000 only covers about four cameras.
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