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Editorial: Street cameras step in right direction for crime prevention

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THE neighborhood watch meetings that have been taking place in several residential areas in the city have yielded yet another idea that could benefit the entire community.

Concerned about crime in their neighborhood, residents near the 11th and Washington streets area questioned police at one of their first meetings about the potential for reducing unwanted activities through installation of video cameras at selected sites.

Police at first were ambivalent about the effectiveness of the cameras but upon additional study determined the idea was not only good but one that should be repeated in other areas.

Sometime after the first of the year these surveillance cameras will be installed at the following locations:

11th and Washington streets

Fourth and Washington streets

Morningside Park in East Columbus

A camera already is in place at Ninth Street Park and a second could be added upon completion of additional studies.

The minimal cost of this project (an estimated $116,300) is more than offset by the potential gains that could be realized.

Consider these benefits:

Signals from the cameras will be fed into monitors at the county emergency operations center and the police department’s front desk where activity can be followed in real time. If something amiss is detected, dispatchers immediately will be able to send officers to the scene.

Officers on patrol can monitor the camera surveillance from inside their patrol cars by using laptop computers and iPads, giving them the advantage of being able to park several blocks away from a covered area and move in quickly if a problem arises.

Video feeds can be archived for several months, proving valuable in the prosecution of criminal cases.

Compared to other communities, especially metropolitan areas, Columbus’ entry into this form of high definition video surveillance is modest, but the technology has reached a point where such systems can be invaluable in reducing crime and capturing and prosecuting offenders.

Images of the Boston marathon bombers were instrumental in the quick identification of the suspects, and the footage is certain to be used at the trial of the surviving accused bomber.

The planned installation at the Fourth and Washington streets intersection is somewhat ironic in that it was in that area last Sunday that a Brown County man had created a “ruckus” in or near two downtown bars, allegedly pulling a knife on one customer, before moving on to a restaurant at 11th and Washington streets.

Had a camera been in place at the time, it’s possible the suspect could have been identified and arrested before moving away from the downtown area.

Whereas these surveillance methods once were considered controversial on the basis of privacy issues, those concerns have subsided to a great extent because they have become so commonplace around the world, and their effectiveness as a crime-fighting tool has been repeatedly demonstrated.

In addition to identification and apprehension benefits, the cameras also can serve a preventive purpose, at least in the targeted areas.

If there are any concerns about the use of these devices, they should be centered on finding the means to install them at more areas around the city.

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