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.