On January 27th, the Evanston City Council authorized the City to apply for federal funding to install surveillance cameras on Dodge and Church to create “safe passage” for students traveling to ETHS. The Mayor’s request was specifically for $200,000 for cameras and $100,000 for summer jobs for youth.
On March 14th, the City submitted a grant application for $370,000 for cameras, plus a $25,000 match for personnel. The total camera project is $395,000, nearly twice the amount voted on by Council.
A separate application for $107,639 was submitted to supplement the summer youth jobs program.
What happened between January 27 and March 14? This greatly expanded camera project is not what was presented to the community at public meetings, nor was it voted on by Council.
No cameras were requested for Dodge Ave. around ETHS, the area that the police chief has deemed to be “of most concern”. That is because the city has already spent $60,000 installing cameras near ETHS from Dempster north to Simpson. Instead this grant adds 12 cameras on the following intersections south of Dempster at Crain, Greenleaf, Lee, Main, Washington, Cleveland, Keeney Oakton, Kirk, Mulford, Brummel and Howard. Ten additional cameras would be placed on Church from McCormick to Ridge Ave. Evanston’s crime statistics do not justify seeking nearly $400,000 to put cameras on these intersections.
The $395,000 grant request also includes upgrades to the computer server and dispatch center, portable devices such as I Pads and Laptops for police units, and License Plate Reading systems at three intersections.
Is the goal of our City officials to create “safe passage” for students or is the underlying agenda to build a passive police presence so offenders can be identified after the fact and “suspected” offenders can be monitored? Isn’t this the same idea that led to Evanston’s “stop and frisk” policy? Will these tools serve their stated purpose or further inflame and isolate an increasingly fractured community?
Before additional cameras are installed, Evanston residents deserve more transparency about the decision to expand the camera project and a more responsive exchange with its elected officials on community safety.