Evanston aldermen are scheduled to vote Monday on a contract to install 15 outdoor surveillance cameras in downtown Evanston and in high-crime areas on the city’s south and west sides.

Evanston aldermen are scheduled to vote Monday on a contract to install 15 outdoor surveillance cameras in downtown Evanston and in high-crime areas on the city’s south and west sides.

Red dots mark proposed camera locations downtown. Blue and purple lines show the path of the fiber-optic network in this city-prepared map.

The $341,000 project is fully funded by a pair of federal grants the city received last year.

Nine cameras would be located at major downtown intersections

Three would be placed on the west side, two along Dodge Avenue north of Church Street and the third at the intersection of Foster Street and Jackson Avenue.

The final three would be added on the south end of town, two along Howard Street east of Ridge Avenue and the third at the intersection of Brummel Street and Custer Avenue.

The cameras would be linked to police headquarters using the city’s existing fiber optic network and a wireless network linking two city water towers with the Skyline apartment building on Howard.

City staff is recommending that the contract be awarded to Current Technologies of Downers Grove.

Police Chief Richard Eddington said the new cameras would be smaller an “less aesthetically offensive” than the boxy camera systems with blue lights on top now used at a few locations on the city’s west and south sides.

Existing police camera at Custer-Brummel intersection

An existing Evanston Police security camera.

Eddington said he’ll have pictures of several alternative new camera designs available to show aldermen Monday night.

The chief said the cameras are an effective tool for obtaining evidence or wrongdoing.

“There’s almost an expectation now by the judge, jury and prosecutor that we’ll have some kind of digitally recorded evidence in any prosecution,” he added.

The city’s police cars and even police motorcycles now are equipped with cameras.

He said that, given the limits of the older technology, the existing cameras have been reasonably effective, saying there was a double-digit drop in criminal incidents the first summer after a camera was installed near Brummel Park.

Eddington said the cameras can’t eliminate the need for police officers on the beat, but that they help increase the effectiveness of officers in dealing with crime problems in a time of scarce budget resources.

“The cameras don’t go on vacation or have sick days,” the chief said, “and while they do break once in a while, the cost of maintaining them is significantly lower than personnel costs.”

Police use of surveillance cameras has given rise to privacy concerns over the years, but Eddington said Evanston “isn’t on the cutting edge of social change in this matter.”

He said Chicago and other major cities have used similar systems for years, and such systems have become nationally and internationally accepted as a means of enhancing personal safety and security.

Asked whether he’d be willing to make the live feed of camera images available online to the public — after the fashion of web cams used to show traffic and weather conditions — he said he hadn’t considered that option before.

“On a discussion basis, I’d have no opposition to it,” he said, “but I’d have to touch base with the legal department to review any possible legal concerns.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Do they work ?
    Is there evidence that they work at reducing crime or catching criminals ?
    Or do criminal just move out of range by a few blocks [since they know where they are]. I.e. does net crime decrease and more criminals caught ?
    From the pictures the installations are too large for this but can many ‘decoy’ sites be set-up and the ‘real’ equipment moved randomly. It would seem this would be more effective though expensive.
    Cameras downtown would seem to just be to placate the middle class. What I recall about the crimes reported, those downtown are mostly shoplifting that the cameras would not catch—though possibly as they exit stores.
    From crime reports it would seem Zone 2 would have to extend to at lest Hartrey. Zone 3 from Clyde to Ridge and Howard to Mulford.
    What about ‘renting’ space in homes to mount less expensive camera—and again move them around the city. Even VCRs or such with cameras ?
    If they would work, great but do other cities history prove they will ? Have the NU ‘Blue Lights’ decreased crime or pushed it blocks away [I know they are not cameras] ?
    What about more undercover police, e.g. appearing to be drunk or sleeping or like the must be carrying a lot of cash ? —-of course well guarded by other undercover police.
    ‘Feel good/safe’ measures may only be that—and give a false sense of security.

  2. The opposite effect..
    As anyone with any knowledge of the facets of crime nothing short of increased police patrolling, or eliminating poverty, actually helps in reducing crime. This is a bad idea.. It will at minimum detract from the welcoming environment that is Evanston. Just like I look at the cameras Chicago has installed and instantly feel like those locations are unsafe, so will new visitors to Evanston.

  3. Catching violent criminals versus drunken or rowdy NU students?
    If the goal is deterrence of violent crime, the placement of these cameras seems strange. There is far more crime in the far southeast corner of Evanston (Zone 3 and nearby) than there is downtown (Zone 1).

    With so many cameras in downtown Evanston, are they hoping to catch violent criminals? Not likely. They will be watching more drunken or rowdy NU students.

    Federal money (and all tax dollars) would be better spent improving the quality of life in those areas of town where crime, especially violent crime, is the highest. It ain’t downtown so, in my opinion, this money is not being spent wisely.

    For those citizen who live with violent crime on their streets as a routine occurrence, this is a slap in the face. But it’s just the most recent slap from those who run the City of Evanston.

    1. more crime in district 3 than downtown?
      You say, There is far more crime in the far southeast corner of Evanston (Zone 3 and nearby) than there is downtown (Zone 1).

      Really? How did you reach that conclusion?

      1. Check out the police reports
        I said violent crime. Look at the police reports as I do on a weekly basis. Zone 3 has far more violent crime than Zone 1.

        Oh, gasp, look out for those rowdy NU students in Zone 1. Public urination may be a crime but I’d rather have that crime in my alley than a shooting or an armed robbery.

        Are we really using federal dollars in downtown when violent crime is much worse on the west and south sides of town?

        Shame on the City of Evanston for wasting this money.

        1. Citizens of evanston have
          citizens of evanston have zero clue what really goes on in their community. last summer there were string of strong armed robberies in the downtown area.yes! im talking about good old Church and Maple area. groups of teens were targeting men walking alone during the hours of 9pm-Midnight, beating them up and taking thier money. Two years ago a young woman was followed into her apartment and sexually assaulted. the crime reports dont shed a light on whats really happening. why would they? the idea is to give residents and furture residents a false sense of hope. if you only knew. face it cameras are everywhere. just type your address into google and look at the street view….and voila! there’s a picture of your house. i welcome the cameras. your in a public area where people can see you anyway!

  4. Wow. All of downtown Evanston
    Wow. All of downtown Evanston is now going to be monitored by cameras? Very, very, very sad. My wife and I were debating whether to stay here when she’s done at Kellogg, but this makes the decision easy for us.

    Evanston, have fun with the whole surveillance society thing. It has worked out so well for the UK.

  5. Soo, where’re going to have a
    Soo, where’re going to have a whole new bur. starting up to maintain these cameras etc. What is next, camaras to catch speeders? We want less control of our lives Not more infringement in them?

  6. Privacy?
    Even if these downtown cameras help solve a few crimes, is it worth the expense of installing and maintaining them? What about the cost to our privacy? I believe there is a long-term psychological and sociological impact to being watched all the time.

    Evidence that cameras actually prevent crime is mixed at best. For a thorough examination of the subject, take a look at Gill, M. and Spriggs, A. Assessing the impact of CCTV (PDF). Did the camera in Brummel Park prevent any crimes, or just move them?

    Wouldn’t $341,000 put at least one more officer on the street? I know the money is a federal grant, but that doesn’t make it OK to waste it. The feds decided to splurge on funding municipal surveillance, but I don’t think we should jump on that bandwagon just because someone else is footing the bill.

    1. Your Kidding… Right?
      Cost to our privacy? Long term pyschological and sociological impact?

      You have got to be kidding with these comments. Right?

  7. A necessary evil
    As someone who spent 14 years owning a business in downtown Evanston, I can tell you crime is every bit as prevalent in downtown as it anywhere else in Evanston. It just goes under reported – deliberately for the sake of keeping property values artificially high. If those who purchased Condos in downtown Evanston over the last decade actually knew how dangerous downtown Evanston really is, they may have thought twice about purchasing property.

    The installation of these cameras proves just how dangerous Evanston really is – something I have been saying for more then a decade. The cameras will help our officers in tracking offenders, but it will also drive people who fear Big Brother away. The price we pay for tolerating crime in Evanston.

    It is of my opinion that if we supported our police officers, if we were our brothers’ keeper, then the cameras wouldn’t be necessary. I personally intervened and stopped a woman being attacked where several people heard her screams for 25 minutes, but no one called 911.

    That’s the world we live in and that is why we need cameras.

  8. Cameras work!
    I can see a police camera out the windows of my condo and I am very glad it is there. It has had a major deterrent effect on quality-of-life crimes, such as brawling, vandalism and car break-ins. Before the camera was installed, we had dozens of people fighting in the street on a regular basis. Large groups hung out on the corner, being loud, openly smoking pot and drinking alcohol, and harassing passers-by. Adults, teens and children of all ages would be part of these groups. This situation would often eventually turn into a violent melee. Since the camera was installed, this doesn’t happen anymore.

    But as great as a deterrent as these cameras are, they have serious limitations when it comes to solving the crimes that do take place near them. I am grateful for the upgrade in technology with the new cameras because they promise to be more effective at solving these crimes.

  9. Cameras and crime
    A shame to spend tax dollars on cameras downtown. I have lived here my entire life and have walked the streets downtown at all hours and felt safe. Not perfectly safe, but then again I do not choose to live in a gated, far flung suburban community and instead enjoy everything Evanston has to offer.

  10. This is folly
    What started out as 10 cameras in grant park is now a 10,000 camera spy network in the city of Chicago. The newest additions will be cameras that are the size of matchboxes.

    Evanston following suit does not sit well with me. 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

  11. Prove they work before spending money
    Evanston will not be the first place to post cameras. Have past installations reduced net crime [neighborhood city] or just moved it ? We should know before money is spent, people get a false sense of security and use funds that could be spent better—even if “someone else” like State or Federal government pays, we will pay down the line.
    To those who say “someone else” pays, who do you think “someone else” is ? It is us the taxpayer. Your taxes increase everytime money is spent whether for Evanston or NY. Remember small northwestern towns with hardly cases of crossing against the light, buying armor trucks with state of the art SWAP and chemical facilities just because “Homeland Security” gave them the funds ? Now Evanston citizens are paying our share for that.
    Clearly the Council does not understand that money does not grown on trees but it would be nice if State and Federal government woul.d

    1. Cameras work ?

      Any record yet of how many crimes have been caught by the cameras by zone ?  How many of those was a suspect found ? 

      Reduction of crime by zone since cameras installed ?

      1. Cameras still being installed

        Good question.

        We checked with the Police Department and learned they’re still working on setting up the cameras. Target date for operation is now late spring or early summer.

        — Bill

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