A last-minute effort to expand a police surveillance camera project on Howard Street failed Monday.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, tried to persuade her fellow aldermen to amend a staff proposal for a $50,000 camera project at 415 Howard St. to add a second camera a few blocks west near the intersection of Howard and Elmwood.
Rainey said store owners on that block who’ve made a major effort to improve the area have suffered frequent robberies and vandalism and may give up on the area unless the city responds more effectively to the crime problem.
“They are begging for the cameras,” Rainey said.
Last year Rainey lobbied for installation of a light-pole mounted security camera at the intersection of Custer Avenue and Brummel Street in her ward. That project also included a second camera placed in the 5th Ward
Those cameras turned out to be less effective than police had hoped because there’s no way to automatically transmit the images it records to police headquarters.
Instead an officer has to park beneath the camera to download the images.
In addition, the company that made those units has gone out of business, and city staff have concluded there’s no way to upgrade them.
The new camera system proposed for the 415 Howard St. location would be able to automatically transmit the images it records over the Internet to any authorized user on the city’s network.
To do that, it includes a wireless line-of-sight link from the 17-story tall building at 415 Howard to the city water tank at Hartrey Avenue and Seward Street — which is connected to the city’s fiber optic network.
City staff proposed trying out the new system with a single camera before spending additional funds on more cameras.
They say many locations in south Evanston with a line-of-site view of the 415 Howard building could be added to the system and would be able to share the roof-mounted transmitter system.
The new camera system would be purchased from the same vendor that has supplied the extensive network of blue-light cameras in Chicago.
Bruce Slown of the city’s information systems staff told aldermen an additional camera would cost about $30,000 — but that work by Commonwealth Edison to provide full-time power to the light pole the camera would be mounted on would also be needed and he had no estimate of what that would cost.
Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said, “This proposal is not even in the proper form for us to support or reject.”
“My objection is not against what you’re trying to do, it’s just a question of process,” he said.
With that Rainey moved to have the camera proposal held over to the next council meeting, in the apparent hope that it can be revised to include cost estimates for the second camera by that time.
The camera system would be paid for with funds from the Howard Street tax increment financing district.
On another surveillance camera issue, the aldermen voted to approve spending $267,000 to replace aging security cameras at police headquarters and expand the number of cameras there. The new police headquarters system would also be tied into the city’s computer network, allowing real-time monitoring from remote locations and digital recording of all the images.