Evanston aldermen Monday voted 7-2 to accept over $340,000 in grants from the federal government to install surveillance cameras downtown and in two other city neighborhoods.

A cart-full of cameras displayed outside the City Council Chamber.

Evanston aldermen Monday voted 7-2 to accept over $340,000 in grants from the federal government to install surveillance cameras downtown and in two other city neighborhoods.

A cart-full of cameras displayed outside the City Council Chamber.

Objections came from Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who said she worried that the cameras would give visitors the impression that downtown was not safe, and from Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, who said the cameras are an invasion of privacy and no substitute for community efforts to work with young people to turn them away from criminal activity.

But Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he doesn’t believe cameras would make people think the city is unsafe.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she was in London a few weeks ago, which has one of the most comprehensive camera systems in the world. She said she never even noticed them and never felt as if she was being watched.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said she believes the cameras will help catch criminals and that crime victims would want the city to have every tool available to do that.

“Cameras aren’t a replacement for block watches or having parents be responsible,” Burrus said, “They’ll just provide good data when something bad happens.”

Police Chief Richard Eddington said that the proposed camera locations could be changed and that once the infrastructure was in place to link the cameras through the city’s fiber optic and wireless data network they could be located almost anywhere in town.

The current plan calls for nine cameras downtown, three on or near Howard Street in south Evanston, and three on or near Dodge Avenue in west Evanston.

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Feds fund surveillance cameras for city 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. A decision fraught with such
    A decision fraught with such ignorance it boggles the mind…A simple ½ hour of on line research is all one needs to find credible sites that clearly outline far too many issues currently exist for surveillance cameras in public (downtown) settings.

    Some basic findings below have to leave one wondering how much thought process went into this decision?

    According to ACLU Executive Summary…

    “An increasing number of American cities and towns are currently investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems. But few are closely examining the costs and benefits of those investments, or creating mechanisms for measuring those costs and benefits over time. There is extensive academic literature on the subject—studies carried out over many years—and that research strongly indicates that video surveillance has no statistically significant effect on crime rates.

    Measuring the success of public video surveillance systems is complex, because there are always innumerable factors that can explain a rise or fall in crime rates. Simply showing an increase or decrease in reported crime in an area under surveillance does not take into account general trends in crime and crime reporting, additional police in the areas under surveillance, better lighting, and perhaps most importantly, the possible displacement of crime to other areas not under surveillance.

    According to Suite 101…

    “Does Video Surveillance Affect Crime?
    In the seven years since September 11th there have been no national research to track video surveillance’s effectiveness, leaving the questions as to its ability to deter open for interpretation. However, many criminals are bypassing the systems’ ability to act as a form of identification by simply wearing masks or keeping their backs to a camera. On the rare occasion new agencies can provide a full picture of a criminals face, it is often marred by lighting or simply the limitations of a camera posted at an odd angle.

    From an MSNBC article…

    “Police officials in San Francisco have delayed approving installation of new cameras pending a final study from researchers at the University of California, who said in a preliminary report this spring that the city’s 68 anti-crime cameras had failed to deter street crime. Where the cameras had any impact, the interim report said, they simply moved crime down the street or around the corner.

    There are piles of studies that show the greatest deterrent to criminal and uncivil behavior in public parks is through active social programming and the presence of police or similar official personnel.”

    Basic concerns…

    Who will be monitoring these cameras?
    Will they be clearly marked as “surveillance cameras”?
    How much will it actually cost taxpayers to maintain and operate the cameras?

    And what about legal ramifications here?—I can see it now once any issue occurs downtown after the cameras are installed—Both sides of any court will use the video tape to slow down the legislative process with costly continuances—
    “were still analyzing the surveillance camera tape your honor”
    “we haven’t received the surveillance camera tape your honor”…etc…etc
    And to what degree of assurance do we have the video tape will actually be beneficial toward gaining a conviction?–None!

    The NFL has been using instant replays to determine controversial calls for years now and any fan knows how silly this has become—the fans don’t agree on what happened—the announcers don’t agree on what happened, and in some cases, the video replay judges with far superior cameras and 10 different angle views still screw up the call!—Yes Virginia, the camera does lie.

    So how can our elected officials be so boneheaded as to pass unproven technology into law during these recessionary times???–Don’t think for one moment these things won’t end up costing us a fortune even though we received the hardware through some grant.

    Oh well—c’est la vie…See ya on the big screen neighbors—Playing soon at our local police station.

  2. Reality or Ideology?
    You citations from predominately left leaning organizations (MSNBC and ACLU) informs me that this is an ideological argument you are trying to make, which stiffles me since the intrusion on our lives, cameras aside, is occuring at break neck speed by the actions of the Obama administration.

    1. Dan—is it possible there
      Dan—is it possible there was a reason I used “left leaning” sources to prove my point?…Of course the cameras are an intrusion into our lives but to use this fact as a point in debate falls flat with most of our fellow denizens—best to use info from the left to show whats right–;>

      1. Got It

        I really liked your reply – made me chuckle. Got it on the left leaning sources, aok by me, but I do not always agree as I lean right;). All the best!

    2. Epistemic Closure and “Reality”
      Dan wrote:

      “You citations from predominately left leaning organizations (MSNBC and ACLU) informs me that this is an ideological argument you are trying to make, “

      There has been much discussion recently about “epistemic closure” among conservatives. This discussion originated with Julian Sanchez (of the conservative/Libertarian CATO Institute), who wrote:

      “One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!)”

      See Sanchez’s essay here .

      In an article in today’s New York Times (liberal!), Patricia Cohen writes:

      “Bruce Bartlett, a veteran of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush’s administrations, wrote that in the last few years, “epistemic closure” had become much worse among “the intelligentsia of the conservative movement.” He later added that the cream of the conservative research institutes, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, had gone from presenting informed policy analyses to pumping out propaganda.”

      While the current economic and political crises of the world call for Enquiring Minds, it is indeed unfortunate that the conservative movement has closed its mind and entered a cocooned fantasy-world of Hannity, Beck, and Limbaugh. In the past, there were principled conservatives who were capable of intellectual discussion. ( Robert Taft, William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman). While these conservatives often allied themselves and pandered to unsavory individuals (Joe McCarthy) or political movements (segregation) for political expediency, they were still capable of honest discussion and participation in government.

      Unfortunately, in the last 10 years the crazies have taken over the Republican Party and conservative movement. Where are today’s Gerald Ford, Alf Landon, and Dwight Eisenhower?

      1. It goes both ways
        And the cultlike fascination with Obama does not also power epistemic closure on the left?

        Please… it starts in the White House.

        It goes both ways my dear friend.

        Let’s chat in November.

  3. Downtown Evanston
    I’ve historically tried to limit my out-of-town spending, but this camera debacle has me rethinking my trips to downtown. Not because I am some low-brow criminal, but because I do believe this is an intrusion into my privacy. I’ll probably be doing more internet shopping or traveling to Lincolnwood, Skokie and Wilmette when I want to go to a restaurant….

  4. What about added costs of camera and windfarm ?
    Neither the cameras or windfarm bother me except for the cost since probably neither will produce anything near what promised and cause more of a budget problem when ‘real’ costs are figured.
    Chicago Tonight 4/28 had report from an Argonne Labs Security study on cameras that pretty much said what other comments have—they don’t reduce crime, just move it out of sight of cameras. Also [a lawyer?] reported on civil rights and mis-use of cameras by police and others.

    Even though cameras have been put in other cities, the ACLU, Great Room [or any other project] type opponents, Society to Preserve the 1890s [group that keeps street lights so dim residents don’t know whole blocks are out for days] will sue the city, tie it up for years in the courts and cost $$.
    With the Windfarms, I suspect the Kennedy clan from Mass. will come here and fight it so Evanston does not become a presidence in their fight to keep windfarms off their resorts.

  5. Zone 1
    If Zone 1 has as many crimes as some have said, it points to even more of a reporting problem.
    The Evanston Review, Roundtable, DailyNorthwestern and even Now, report a few crimes at most a week. Is it to keep “our reputation” or just space for them ?
    Even looking at the Evanston Police Blotter I have to wonder. I’ve seen multiple police cars at a scene, patting-down and handcuffing a driver, having the car towed away—and yet never a mention in the Police Blotter in the next week or so. Makes me wonder.
    Does partial reporting really serve the residents ?

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