CCTV Puts Public Housing Crime in Full View

For years, vandalism, drugs and other crimes were rampant in the Kinston, N.C., housing projects. However in Spring 1996, the Kinston Housing Authority, fed up with mounting crime in its neighborhoods, looked toward CCTV technology for assistance. What emerged was a 25-camera system designed to monitor the perimeter of the buildings. Cameras, positioned on utility poles in four strategic locations, supervised neighborhood street activity near the building. Housing authority personnel monitored two of the four locations.

Since installing the system, crime has subsided dramatically. In fact, residents have requested more cameras be installed throughout the area.
The Kinston installation is indicative of the growing number of camera systems cropping up throughout the United States, especially in crime-ridden neighborhoods. Public housing authorities, police agencies and security professionals laud CCTV usage in public dwellings to ward off crime, such as tagging, vandalism, drug dealing, physical assault and burglary.

However, while many stress that community involvement is essential to quelling privacy concerns, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) cautions the use of the technology in public areas. The advocacy group believes this application could potentially compromise citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights.

Public Housing Officials Look to Dealers for Security Solution
During the early 1990s, drug dealing and graffiti were prevalent at New York’s 44th precinct in the Bronx. Nestled in one of the highest crime areas in the Big Apple was Roosevelt Gardens Associates, a 291-unit, government subsidized, Section 8 development.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials approached Kraus Hi-Tech in Long Island City, N.Y., to install a CCTV camera and video phone-line system.
A total of 26 cameras were installed in the complex in 14 elevators, the courtyard and perimeter of the complex to discourage loiterers and drug dealers from frequenting the area.

Since the Roosevelt installation, Kraus Hi-Tech has garnered two other contracts through its affiliated company, Kraus Management. The New York City Housing Authority contracted with the company to oversee the properties. Cameras in all of Kraus Hi-Tech developments are remotely monitored from its central station 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Criminal Activity Spreads Into the Developments

Aside from the bad element that looms on the streets and sidewalks just outside their windows, tenants also worry about crime inside their complex. Burglary and physical assault committed by fellow residents as well as vagrants who penetrate closed entrances are very much a reality in some of these developments.

Cities Seek Grants to Cover Installation Costs

Camera installations for developments with several units generally reach the six-figure range. So, how can public housing authorities afford sophisticated CCTV?Many of these housing authorities receive funding for surveillance systems through grants from HR 4194, “Department of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act.”

Color Vs. Black & White: Which Is Better?

When selecting cameras for a housing complex, it is recommended that you first look at both security needs and lighting conditions throughout the premises. For instance, if there are dimly lit areas, determine where to use color and where to utilize black-and-white cameras.

Zoom Capabilities Bring Up Privacy Concerns

Public housing authorities often employ both fixed and pan/tilt/zoom cameras for indoor and outdoor applications. The issue of using cameras with zoom capabilities remains at the forefront of the right-to-privacy debate.

ACLU Challenges Industry on 4th Amendment Rights

While associations like SIA and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) respect the viewpoints expressed by the ACLU, they believe operational guidelines are a proactive approach toward preventing abuses in the industry and to maintain the integrity of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights.

Neighborhood Groups, Residents Get Involved

Cameras at the Minneapolis Housing Authority were actually made possible thanks to the efforts of its residents. About 10 years ago, a group of residents from Elliot Twin Apartments, determined to keep crime out of their community, formed Project Lookout, a volunteer crime watch program.

Positive Proof Remains in the Crime Numbers

To really understand the full impact of a camera system, one must look to the crime statistics for a real numbers comparison.Special thanks to Videolarm in Atlanta and Elcor Intl. Video of New York for their contributions to the article.

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