Despite opposition from some community members, Evanston aldermen voted 5-3 Monday to go forward with a grant application to install security cameras along Dodge Avenue and Church Street.
Tisdahl initially recommended that the city apply for the grant in December, not long after a resolution to create a “safe school zone” and extend policing powers around Evanston Township High School failed to pass city council. Citing a recent statewide survey on learning conditions that showed only 58 percent of ETHS students say they feel safe “outside around the school,” Tisdahl has said that the proposal is designed to provide an alternative measure to enhance safety for children walking to and from the high school.
“There’s a young woman who is afraid to go to and from school because of the number of times she’s been shown a gun,” Tisdahl said at Monday night’s meeting. “She lives two blocks from the school, and her mother drives her to and from school. I think we owe our children a better life than that.”
Under the mayor’s proposal, police would add surveillance cameras along the entire 2.5-mile stretch of Dodge Avenue from Simpson to Howard streets, and along a 1.2-mile stretch of Church Street from city limits at McCormick Boulevard to Ridge Avenue. Cameras would stop at Ridge because there are so many private security cameras downtown that adding more would be unnecessary, according to Tisdahl.
In addition to the new cameras proposed, police already operate numerous surveillance cameras throughout the city, including a handful near the high school, according to Police Chief Richard Eddington.
In order to install the cameras, the city will apply for $200,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. The grant application is due in February, according to city manager Wally Bobkiewicz.
Several Evanston residents spoke up about the proposal at Monday night’s city council meeting, and more than 100 people have signed petitions opposing the surveillance cameras.
Evanston resident Bobby Burns, who is collecting signatures online and in person in the neighborhood around the high school, told Patch he believes the city council does not have enough research to back up the surveillance camera proposal.
“Has Evanston crime physically impacted students?” Burns wrote in an e-mail to Patch earlier in January. “How many harassments, assaults, or robberies have been reported where an E.T.H.S student was the victim (while traveling between home and school)? Until we have this data, the cameras are solving a need that hasn’t been proven to exist yet.”
In a public presentation in December, Police Chief Eddington, however, cited a study by the Urban Institute, among others, that showed that installation of surveillance cameras in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., was a cost-effective way to reduce crime, including violent crime.
Aldermen Judy Fiske (1st Ward), Peter Braithwaite (2nd Ward) and Don Wilson (4th Ward) all voted against the grant to install security cameras.
“I’m not comfortable because I feel like this particular solution goes beyond the range of the problem,” Wilson said. “I think we need to try to be more focused on results-oriented tools and solutions.”