Smile, you’re on camera

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | 7:19 p.m. CST; updated 2:21 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Every parking garage in the city may be under the watch of security cameras by the summer, given the City Council’s approval of a plan last month to install cameras in garages at Sixth and Cherry streets and Seventh and Walnut streets.

The new cameras will allow police, the Joint Communications and Information Center and the staff at the city parking utility to monitor the garages in real time.

Police Chief Randy Boehm supports the plan and said there are multiple benefits to security cameras.

“If a crime happens, video is extremely helpful, but it can also serve as a deterrent when you advertise that there are cameras present,” Boehm said.

Typical crimes that happen in parking garages include thefts from unlocked cars and vehicle vandalism, but they can also include more violent crimes such as assault, Boehm said. The chief also said that cameras already in place have helped police solve several graffiti crimes.

Boehm emphasized that police will not have anyone watching the cameras full-time, but signs in the garage will notify the public, including those who might have crime on their minds, of random surveillance. In cases of an ongoing crime, 911 dispatchers and police will be able to access the cameras and see live images of activity in the garages.

Before its action earlier this month, the City Council had already approved money for cameras in the garage at Tenth and Cherry streets. Those cameras will be installed this year as well. Cameras were placed in the Eighth and Cherry streets garage in 2006.

City transportation manager Ken Koopmans said the newest security camera system will be Web-based. The Eighth and Cherry streets garage, which uses older software that also allows real-time monitoring, might be upgraded to the Web-based technology if money is available, Koopmans said. That will depend on the bids the city receives for the newest project.

City Manager Bill Watkins said the city has been adding cameras to one parking garage each year, but recent increases in crime led the city to punch the accelerator.

“The original project worked well,” Watkins said, “but with recent concerns about crime and security, we decided to speed up process by two years.”

Watkins gave Mayor Darwin Hindman credit for pushing the idea.

The city will buy 48 cameras total for the newly approved garages at an estimated cost of $62,000. Annual maintenance and computer support will cost about $40,000. Money for the project will come from the city’s parking utility.

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Richard Hayden February 14, 2008 | 2:32 p.m.

$40,000 Annual maintenance and computer support, $62,000 Cameras, 102,000 Total WoW!!
"The chief also said that cameras already in place have helped police solve several graffiti crimes."
1. Thumbs up on quashing graffiti :-)
2. Note to Judges: Those caught on video in the act shall personally clean and restore to original condition. Parents and/or money can't bail you out.
Will this expenditure help the average citizen that doesn't ever use the garages, could cameras point out on the street where other cars park? How about the bus riders, they would feel safer if cameras were installed on the buses. Any budget for that?
Now it is 2009, ready for another $40,000 (Annual maintenance and computer support), will the expenditure be looked at to balance future unreported graffiti, or F.U.G.?
Lastly, if someone is hurt in the garage that has cameras but is not monitored; get ready for lawsuits. (Huwey Dewey & Cheatem) :-)

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