North Chicago ponders purchase of new surveillance cameras
By Judy Masterson email@example.com August 15, 2013 9:38AM
A Portable Overt Digital Surveillance System camera on top of a pole at 14th and Victoria streets in North Chicago was installed in 2006. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 15, 2013 7:30PM
The North Chicago City Council is expected to spend $124,000 for new police surveillance cameras to help deter crime in certain neighborhoods.
Residents who live around and attend Queen of Peace church near 14th and Jackson streets say the church was forced to move its choir practice to another parish location because of aggressive panhandling and other security issues in the area.
Speaking at a recent meeting sponsored by Mayor Leon Rockigham, one woman said neighbors witnessed men pull down and break a camera installed at Victoria and 14th Street. Resident John Krempotic said the cameras, installed about six years ago, had a deterrent effect on gang and drug activity. The city’s eight cameras have been removed from the tops of utility poles.
“They’ve been pretty much dysfunctional for over a year,” said Chief of Staff Steve McInnis.
Lifelong North Chicago resident Pat Banford, who lives near 11th and Lincoln streets, also urged the council to replace the cameras.
“When that blue-light (at 10th and Park) went out, the drug traffic increased 20-fold,” she said.
Cameras had been installed at intersections along 10th and 14th streets, Sheridan Road, and Broadway Avenue, in areas with drug activity, much of which comes from buyers who roll in from affluent communities from the west and south, according to McInnis, who stated “When cameras are up, traffic goes away.”
McInnis said mechanisms on the old cameras “froze up,” maybe due to lightning strikes. He also noted that video footage from the cameras was often too poor in quality to be admissable in court.
Officials are mulling the purchase of a network of wireless video cameras, manufactured by Scientel Wireless Inc., which have a zoom-in feature, night-time illumination, offer HD clarity, and can interact with each other; if one camera has a blocked transmission, another camera can take over.
The cameras sense loitering and sound an alarm, McInnis said. They collect data including pedestrian and traffic counts. Fourth Ward Bobby Allen said the city should have moved more quickly to capture grants to pay for the new cameras.
“The old cameras haven’t worked for a year,” Allen said. “When we see something’s going bad, we’ve got to get on it right now.”
But First Ward Alderman Ernest Fisher, a former North Chicago police chief, defended what he said was the city’s attempt to repair the old cameras.
“I see criminal activity,” Fisher said. “Regardless of a grant or not, we need them. We need them bad.”