Riverside’s village board has scrapped a plan to mount closed-circuit surveillance cameras at nearly 20 entrance/exits to the village after the police chief concluded the benefit gained from the system didn’t justify the expense.
Back in August, Police Chief Thomas Weitzel informed the board that it would cost about $10,000 per location to erect the cameras, at a total cost of about $180,000. In addition, police would need additional computer equipment and memory to store all of the new video.
That figure was included in a preliminary draft of Riverside’s 2015 operating budget. However, on Sept. 29, Weitzel wrote a memo to Interim Village Manager Jessica Frances and members of the village board recommending that the board take that line item out of the budget.
“It is my opinion that there will be no benefit to prevent crime and will be [of] limited benefit within the village to post-crime investigations,” Weitzel wrote.
Part of the reason for his conclusions, Weitzel said, was that such cameras are usually used in areas where street crime is a particular problem or in places where entrance to and exit from an area is tightly controlled, such as a gated subdivision.
Trustee Doug Pollock, who works as community development director in Burr Ridge, first broached the subject of surveillance cameras back in February, calling them “an incredible investigative tool.”
Burr Ridge police used the cameras successfully on a number of occasions to solve crimes, particularly residential burglaries, said Pollock. However, he also noted that subdivisions in Burr Ridge typically have few entry/exit points.
Riverside has more than 20 points of entry/exit, said Weitzel, and the village does not experience a great deal of street crime.
“I do not see a distinct advantage for Riverside in installing these cameras for post-event situations,” Weitzel wrote in his memo to trustees. “Riverside does not experience a great deal of street crime and our property crime, while it fluctuates from year to year, is low overall.”
Village President Ben Sells said that the more board members thought about the feasibility of the closed-circuit system, the more they wavered on it, especially since what was being proposed did not cover every single one of the entry and exit points of the village.
Weitzel’s memo was the final convincer, even for Pollock.
“If Chief Weitzel doesn’t think it works for Riverside, I’ll defer to his judgment on that,” Pollock said.
However, that doesn’t mean Riverside is done with trying to find other ways to obtain surveillance video from places around the village’s perimeter.
Trustee Joseph Ballerine suggested that the village might be able to partner with private businesses, which already have cameras, for quick access to video. Ballerine also suggested that businesses might be able to partner with the village to install more cameras and point them toward entry/exits at places like East Burlington Street, East Quincy Street and Longcommon Road.
Ballerine pointed to arrests made by Riverside police in the wake of a robbery in a driveway on East Burlington Street in August. Surveillance footage from businesses was key in making those arrests.
Riverside police also in the past have worked with businesses to convince them to upgrade their cameras in order to assist police in solving crimes. The owners of 7-Eleven at 2600 Harlem Ave. upgraded its existing cameras and added others in the wake of a spate of armed robberies there in 2012.
“I still think they should explore a public/private partnership, because the cameras are already there,” Ballerine said.
He suggested having the village’s Safe Environment Commission study the issue, since that commission’s chairwoman, Martha Meegan, has experience with similar public/partnership initiatives as director of campus safety and security at Columbia College in Chicago.
Sells, however, directed Weitzel to consult directly with Meegan instead of the full commission, since Meegan is the commission member with actual experience with the issue. While Ballerine believed having the full commission study the issue was appropriate, he supported Weitzel meeting one-on-one with Meegan.
“It’s right for us to take advantage of the experience, if we have it,” Ballerine said.
Meegan said she did not want to speak about the matter with the Landmark until after her meeting with Weitzel, which likely will take place in November.