COLUMBIA — Examining the downtown cameras in Springfield, Ill., can help demonstrate how they might affect a city like Columbia. Springfield had a population of 117,352 in 2008, similar to Columbia's 100,733 in 2008, according to U.S. Census data. It's also a college town with two universities: University of Illinois - Springfield and Robert Morris University.
Springfield installed 12 cameras downtown three to five years ago.
“We knew we had a need,” said Michael Midiri, who oversees Springfield's cameras. “We knew that we had big crowds down there in the evening and we thought, ‘How do we get another set of eyes down there?’”
The cameras, which cost $45,000 to $50,000, were put at three major intersections with the most foot traffic, Midiri said. They film the street corners, not the middle of the intersection.
“We put them in because we have so much tourism because of the Lincoln sites,” Midiri said. “We wanted to have something that was more of a deterrent. They have helped us solve crimes, but they’re more of a deterrent.”
He called the cameras a “safety net,” and said he would be interested in getting more cameras.
“It might not catch everything we want, but every little bit helps,” Midiri said.
Springfield’s cameras are not pan and tilt, nor are they mobile units.
According to Springfield's citywide crime statistics, there was a 19 percent decrease in theft and 15 percent decrease in overall crime from 2003 to 2005, when the cameras were initially installed. From 2005 to 2009, both those numbers remained relatively constant.
These numbers are, however, citywide and Springfield’s cameras are only downtown.
“I’m not sure how much they were affected by the installation of the cameras,” said Donna Brown, records manager for Springfield.