Evanston aldermen next month should approve Mayor Tisdahl’s plan to seek a grant to fund surveillance cameras on routes to the high school.

The mayor, along with Police Chief Richard Eddington, who’ve been promoting the camera concept since October, held the last of a scheduled series of public meetings to discuss the plan at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center Wednesday night.

Perhaps 20 residents, plus a handful of city officials and reporters turned out for the session.

Some people supported the plan — which would set up a series of cameras along Church Street from McCormick Boulevard to Ridge Avenue and on the full length of Dodge Avenue.

But they were outnumbered by people who raised concerns about whether the cameras would violate privacy or stigmatize the neighborhoods where they were deployed or would simply be ineffective.

And at least one speaker urged more use of cameras, but said they should be placed on residential blocks where recent shooting incidents have occurred.

Two residents with differing views exchange comments at the meeting.

Here’s why the plan should go forward:

  • While studies of the effectiveness of cameras have shown mixed results, the most recent and thorough reports suggest that, when properly used, they can be highly effective.
  • Camera systems do present potential for abuse of personal privacy, as detailed in this 2007 report from from the ACLU of Northern California. But given the liberal Democratic credentials of our local elected officials and the lack of reports of abusive incidents with the city’s existing cameras, it seems unlikely new cameras here would be abused.
  • The city already spends $27 million — nearly a third of its general fund budget — on deploying a police force with 277 sworn officers and civilian employees. Taxpayers can’t afford any significant increase in officers on the street — the most common alternative objectors offer to the cameras.
  • The grant would amount to “free money” for the city — and a return on taxes local residents have already paid to other levels of government.

A state-mandated survey shows that more than a quarter of Evanston Township High School students feel unsafe while walking between home and school. The camera system offers a sensible and tangible way for the community to respond to those concerns.

Related stories

Mayor wants more security cameras (Dec. 8, 2013)

Evanston police show off new camera truck (May 1, 2013)

Aldermen vote to add cameras, lights around ETHS (Nov. 10, 2012)

Editorial: Let the people watch the cameras (May 13, 2010)

Feds fund surveillance cameras for city (April 23, 2010)

Related documents

Evaluating the use of Public Surveillance Cameras for Crime Control and Prevention (Urban Institute) (.pdf)

Using Public Surveillance Systems for Crime Control and Prevention: A Practical Guide (Urban Institute) (.pdf)

Evanston Police Presentation of Church and Dodge Cameras Plan (.pdf)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. More politics from the Mayor
    The Mayor wants cameras, to show she is doing something. After listening to the presentation, these cameras do not show the faces of those being video, the police chief stated the information is mostly used once a crime is committed or fight, to verify with the witnesses what actually happened, also it can be used by 911 to look at the scene. The cameras are no going to stop crime and once the criminals understand how ineffective the cameras are at showing their faces, they will continue to commit criminal acts.

    What more interesting here, the Mayor has NO clue as to what this is all going to cost. Which is very typical of her, approach, I am the queen and the staff needs to just listen to my comands. Will the grant cover all the costs?? It was stated at the council it would not , so what is the cost of this newest proposal? Also were are the funds coming to cover the city part? Was this in the capital budget for this year or is it more of Wally’s mismanagement of the budget, so what are you taking out of the budget for this item Wally? More likely it will be what hasn’t or will not get done by staff next year so they will have the funds.

    We all recently saw on here, the city gets a grant for a new internet system, and has not spent a penny, yet alone done any planning? I would like to know who in the city is suppose to get the project done? Maybe the Mayor will issue a new command?

  2. Evanston lacks diversity
    The City Council had no backbone to support an ETHS Safe School Zone plan so now they want to place cameras around the high school to appease concerned parents.

    I lean toward supporting the cameras but am hesitant because this is probably a matching grant and the city had not provided a cost estimate nor is the Council diverse in its politics.

    The idea put forth in this viewpoint that liberal Democrat politicians won’t abuse the cameras is simply ludicrous.

    Consider that liberal Democrat mayors Daley and Emanuel have set up thousands of surveillance cameras all over the city, including red light and stop sign cameras in a clear effort to gain more revenue. Chicago police have been accused of diverting cameras away when officers are responding to a call within camera view. The officers don’t want the cameras on them but it’s OK for others. What are the liberal Democrat politicians in Chicago doing about this? Last I checked, most if not all Chicago aldermen are Democrats as is the mayor. Here is the ACLU’s report on Chicago’s surveillance camera system – http://www.aclu-il.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Surveillance-Camera-Report1.pdf

    Liberal Democrat Mayor Gavin Newsome was accused in the attached ACLU report of setting up surveillance cameras near public housing without debate, notification or follow up studies. Did I mention Newsome is a liberal Democrat? The attached ACLU report criticizes California’s surveillance cameras. Remember, California’s Governor is super liberal Democrat Jerry Brown who once rubbed elbows and figuratively drank the Kool-Aid with cult leader Jim Jones.

    Consider that New York, San Francisco and L.A. all have sophisticated surveillance cameras spread around in their cities. L.A. has face recognition cameras! Last I checked, these cities are solely liberal Democrat bastions.

    Remember in March when liberal Democrat Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter that the Obama Administration could hypothetically, “carry out drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil, but “has no intention of doing so… It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”

    Asked by Senate Republicans whether that meant the U.S. could kill any suspected terrorist who was not posing an imminent threat, Holder said the question was not “appropriate. That lead to Republican Senator Paul Rand’s 13 hour filibuster, demanding a clarification. After a lot of public pressure, Holder about one week later finally responded to Paul’s question with a simple, “no.”

    I would be more supportive of surveillance cameras in Evanston if there were at least one conservative or libertarian on the City Council. But Evanston lacks diversity – political diversity.

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