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Hilltop cameras will catch criminals in act
The Hilltop will soon have another tool to aid in crime-solving and prevention.
The City of Columbus plans to have surveillance cameras installed in five different Columbus neighborhoods, including the Hilltop, Weinland Park, Mount Vernon Avenue, Linden and Livingston Avenue areas.
The goal of the Neighborhood Safety Camera Project is to aid the city's police officers in more rapidly identifying criminal activity so they can quickly report to the crime scene.
Additionally, the hope is the cameras may also make criminals think twice before committing a crime in the area, and help residents and local businesses feel safer in the neighborhood.
The Hilltop cameras are slated to be installed along the Sullivant Avenue corridor. Cameras will be placed at four locations: the intersections of South Warren and Sullivant, South Wayne and Sullivant, South Highland and Sullivant, and Clarendon and Sullivant Avenue.
Three cameras are scheduled to go up at each intersection, for a total of 12 working cameras.
The video feed will be monitored by police personnel at a local substation, and they will have the availability to make the cameras pan, tilt, and zoom.
Several factors were involved in determining where these cameras would be installed.
The Greater Hilltop Area Commission voted back in 2008 on whether the community wanted the cameras to monitor their neighborhood.
“There were actually more neighborhoods that wanted the cameras than got them,” said Justin Boggs, a Hilltop resident and active member of the neighborhood blockwatch. Boggs has been following the safety camera project since the idea was first discussed.
The city hired Security Risk Management Consultants (SRMC) to assess the selected neighborhoods in June and July 2010.
The assessment helped to determine where the cameras would be placed.
SRMC interviewed patrol officers and reviewed area crime statistics to identify crime hot spots.
The assessment looked at other cities in which surveillance cameras have been used to deter crime. These cities included Chicago, Washington D.C., San Diego, Philadelphia and international cities, such as London. The city wants to try to avoid some of the challenges those cities have faced.
“There have been some folks who have brought up some privacy concerns, and what I've been told, and what I’ve seen, the technology is now there where they can use these cameras to block out the residential areas,” Boggs said.
When pointed towards residential houses, the cameras will have the ability to blur out the image to ensure residents' privacy.
City Council Public Safety Chair Michelle Mills said the city plans on starting the camera installation in some of the neighborhoods over the next couple of months.
“We’re pretty confident that all five of the neighborhoods should be up and going by the end of the year,” Mills said.
The project is expected to cost an estimated $2 million.
“The taxpayers are really those who should be thanked for this actually getting off the ground,” Mills said. “It’s because of their votes last year that’s making a lot of these initiatives become possible.”
This is a pilot project the city will evaluate every three months. Hilltop crime statistics, and how the placement of the cameras impacts them, will help to determine if the project is long or short-term.
How successful this pilot program is at deterring crime has yet to be seen; however, both city officials and local Hilltop residents hope these cameras will help in fighting and preventing crime in the neighborhood.
“It’s not going to be a silver bullet,” Boggs said. “It’s not going to stop crime as a whole, but if a shooting is going to occur in front of a camera, a witness is impartial. A camera doesn’t lie.”
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