Columbus OKs funds for more safety cameras
Columbus City Council has authorized spending $475,000 to expand the city's year-old safety-camera program in five neighborhoods, while opening up opportunities in other areas that show interest.
Amanda Ford, spokeswoman for public safety, said community officials should lay out the benefits the cameras would provide and what types of crimes they're witnessing and where. Those requests will be weighed against crime statistics from the Columbus Division of Police.
Area commissions, civic associations, business groups and other established nonprofit groups can write the director of public safety to suggest installing the cameras in "hot spots," Ford said.
"The reality is we only have funds to add one or two additional neighborhoods, so we don't want neighborhoods to get their hopes up," she said. "However, we will keep their letter on file and consider their neighborhood as a possibility as we continue to expand the program."
Since Aug. 2, 2011, the city has spent $2 million installing 111 cameras in the Weinland Park, Hilltop, Livingston Avenue (east of German Village), South Linden and Mount Vernon areas. The 2012 capital budget provides another $2.3 million to continue and expand the program.
Council's action was a formality because of a sole-provider agreement with the vendor. The move allowed the city to continue installing cameras throughout the summer. Otherwise, the city would have had to rebid the contract, which would have stalled it, Ford said.
Ford said there have been decreases in crime in four of the five neighborhoods, with the exception of Livingston Avenue, the first expansion area, where crime has slightly increased.
However, at Weinland Park on the Near North Side, crime has decreased by 54 percent, Ford said.
"We feel the cameras are working and police are using them more and more each day," she said. "They have made the biggest impact in the areas where drug sales, prostitution and loitering were occurring. They have also been used to make arrests, identify potential suspects and place suspects in a particular area when a crime occurred."
Ian MacConnell, a former member of the University District Area Commission and current chairman of Citizens for a Nonviolent Columbus, said he was one of the early supporters of the cameras. Before they were installed, he said he informally polled business owners in Weinland Park, many of whom already had security cameras, and they said additional electric eyes would be useful in discouraging crime.
"For me, it's not a huge leap to think these things are having a positive impact neighborhood-wide," he said. "I think the take-home message is that criminals don't like having their activity recorded, and I think it's a real deterrent."