City considering cameras

WARREN – At least one Warren leader wants surveillance cameras placed around the city as a means to reduce violence.

Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, hopes to convince the city that having cameras placed in neighborhoods known for high crime reports would be a tool police can use to solve and, perhaps prevent, crimes.

For the councilwoman, it’s personal. She estimates that 75 percent of the murders that have occurred in the city during the last several years have been in the neighborhoods of her southwest side ward.

“This last wave of murder hit home as Richard Rollison IV was gunned down near my residence,” she said. “He was the father of my 2-year-old cousin and another unborn child.”

The councilwoman said she will ask city council to allocate money for surveillance cameras to combat all criminal acts, including illegal dumping, after receiving information regarding grant money available from the state and federal governments. The city last month agreed to seek to obtain about $5,000 from its $1 million 2014 Community Development Block Grant allocation for Saffold’s efforts to do a pilot program.

Saffold said she would follow the recommendations of the police department on how many cameras are needed and where to install them.

“I met with a local security company, who gave me a rough idea of cost,” she said. “They indicated that they could possibly supply the city with 18 cameras for a specific dollar amount, which did not include labor and wireless cost.”

The estimated cost was more than $40,000.

Police departments already work with businesses that have security cameras. Earlier this year, surveillance cameras in the city’s parking deck assisted police in the identification of teenagers vandalizing vehicles

“I can see cameras placed in high traffic areas, such as school zones, around the amphitheater and the bike trail,” Greg Bartholomew, D-4th Ward, said. “I don’t want to see them everywhere like they are in London.”

The councilman’s vehicle was one of those damaged in the parking deck in April.

Niles police Det. Ken Criswell said his department subpoenas videos all of the time.

“Most of the stores at the Eastwood Mall have surveillance cameras in them,” Criswell. “Stores use them to both stop customer thefts and to monitor the actions of their employees.”

Criswell said the department has some cameras along state Route 422 that they received years ago with Homeland Security funds.

“It was one of those cameras that in 2007 showed the bed of the truck that Raymond F. Cross was driving was up when he left the mall,” Criswell said.

Cross died when the hydraulic boom of the garbage truck hit the Niles Vienna bridge, damaging both the the bridge and flipping the the truck.

An increasing number of home owners are placing security systems in their homes.

“They are much more affordable,” he said. “There are wireless systems in which residents can monitor their homes from wherever they are located.”

Commercial systems remain expensive, he said.

“They are best used when there are monitors that can zoom in on situations as they are happening,” Criswell said.

Warren Superintendent Michael Notar said the district has had surveillance cameras inside and outside each of its new schools since the new buildings were opened.

“We do not have people actively monitoring the cameras at all times during the day,” Notar said. “The cameras are recording what is happening on the school properties and on the buses.

Notar said having the cameras helps in maintaining discipline in the schools because the students know cameras are everywhere.

“When parents report to police something has happened to their children, we can give officers actual recordings of what actually happened,” Notar said. “That helps law enforcement.”

Terry Thomas, president of Community Bus Service, said the company has had security cameras in their buses for more than 15 years.

“They have been helpful in identifying exactly what happened during instances there are issues between two or more students on the buses,” Thomas said.

Not everyone is happy about the possibility of city sponsored surveillance cameras being placed around the city.

“There is a question about the effectiveness of these types of cameras to prevent crime,” Gary Daniels, an associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said. “There is no evidence they will either prevent crime.”

Daniels said where they are place usually push crimes to other neighborhoods.

“Once they know where they are, the criminals will move their businesses to other neighborhoods,” Daniels said. “These work best when there are people constantly monitoring them. Generally, that is not the case. Having surveillance cameras generally do not improve response time for police officer arriving at the crime scenes”

Daniels says the justification should be on the government to prove why cameras are needed.

“It should not be on the citizens to prove why they should not have surveillance cameras,” he said. ”At the technology gets better, there will be increased pressures to use them.”