Petitioners Question Surveillance Cameras Around ETHS

City council members are considering applying for a grant to add security cameras along Church and Dodge.

This map shows where new surveillance cameras would be installed. Photo via city documents.
This map shows where new surveillance cameras would be installed. Photo via city documents.

More than 110 Evanston residents have signed paper petitions and an online  petition asking city council members for more information and discussion before they vote on a proposal to add 3.7 of miles surveillance cameras along Church Street and Dodge Avenue

Under the mayor’s proposal, the city would add 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. The cameras would be funded in part by a Homeland Security grant. 

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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. 

“If these cameras are really about student safety, there should be credible data that clearly supports the need,” he wrote in an e-mail. “If this is about youth homicides, protecting senior citizens, or keeping an eye on police offers, let’s respect the importance of those issues and discuss them individually with care and consideration.” 

Tisdahl has said the cameras would help provide students with a safe route to and from the high school. At a council meeting in December, she explained that students would have fights on school grounds or across the street if they wanted it to be stopped, but if they didn’t want police or school security officers to step in, they would move the fight a few blocks from the high school. 

The proposal for surveillance cameras comes on the heels of a controversial resolution to create a “safe school zone” and extend policing powers around Evanston Township High School. School board members, aldermen and community members debated the proposal for months before it ultimately died in committee.

A recent statewide survey on learning conditions determined that only 58 percent of ETHS students say they feel safe “outside around the school,” and 87 percent feel safe “traveling between home and school.” According to Supt. Eric Witherspoon, 85 percent of the student body replied to the survey. 

Burns believes the results of the survey do not show that surveillance cameras are needed along Church Street and Dodge Avenue, in part because it did not identify why students might feel unsafe.

“Has Evanston crime physically impacted students?” Burns wrote in the e-mail. “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.” 

As of Tuesday, more than 60 people had signed Burns’ petition online, and he told Patch he had gathered 70 signatures on paper from residents on Dodge Avenue and planned to continue canvassing the area.




Rosalie Riegle January 08, 2014 at 09:23 AM
Please note that the surveillance cameras are NOT just "around ETHS," but will stretch over 3.7 miles of busy city streets--Dodge and Church. If someone wants to make trouble, they'll just go to a side street, even more residential. Survillance cameras may help to solve crimes but the good research that's done without political favoritism abundantly shows it does not DETER crime. Please sign the petition Bobby Burns started.
Scotirish January 08, 2014 at 10:01 AM
If you give them an inch, they'll take a mile and Evanston will be under the camera (except for the favored North side).
Jordan S. Zoot January 08, 2014 at 10:23 AM
There is a simpler solution....just put cameras on every lamp post in Evanston including residential side streets...whether its Brown St. or Lincoln St.........we live in a world where an expectation of privacy on public streets is UNREASONABLE. We are NOT talking about having cameras pointed into the windows on private homes. We are talking about the public way....there should be NO expectation of privacy on public streets and in public alleys. It comes down to quality of life....if we actually started seeing people smoking pot and walking down the street getting arrested for it...maybe they would retreat indoors and THINK before they engage in illegal activity. [Obviously that is just an example]...and whoa....cameras WILL deter crime, all it should take is getting a few that commit crimes arrested after being caught by the cameras and people will get the idea.
IgnorantA January 08, 2014 at 12:25 PM
Here come the squeeky wheels.... only people that have something to hide would be opposed....
Scotirish January 08, 2014 at 12:28 PM
They've had a camera on Custer and Howard for awhile now with a police outpost off the corner on Howard, any statistics on crime in that area?
jim January 08, 2014 at 01:17 PM
I wonder if these can be converted to SPEED CAMERAS?
E-Towner January 08, 2014 at 02:32 PM
Better idea - I expect that almost everyone agrees that student safety is a high priority. Instead of focusing on a "Student Safe Zone" or "Cameras" why don't we focus on eliminating the underlying causes that impact student safety. The number of unsafe events that have occurred in the adjacent blocks to ETHS over the last couple of years are well documented. So if people in the neighborhood are against a "Student Safe Zone" and "Cameras" how about starting an effort to eliminate the activities that cause the unsafe activities to take place? Top down solutions haven't worked in the past. The Government (whoever or whatever that is) can't solve the problems. We don't want a police state, so they can't solve the problems. Let's ask local community members and leaders like the clergy and others to take the initiative and solve this long standing problem. Only when and if people in the neighborhood seek a solution and develop a workable plan will the conditions change. Everyone wins. The neighborhood is more safe and all ETHS students are more safe. We need a grass roots effort. Who is ready to take charge?
Jordan S. Zoot January 08, 2014 at 03:19 PM
The idea of "getting the community involved" has been mentioned so many times that no further comment is necessary. Unfortunately, it has NOT worked up to this point.....the community around ETHS has not made the effort to engage with and assist EPD in locating and dealing with the troublemakers. Further, nothing is going to change unless and until the parents of neighborhood kids get fed up with what has been going on. Rather than asking who is willing to do what....there needs to be a framework for ownership of the plan and identification of who is responsible. Cameras and the Safe Zone were offered as concrete steps......what else is the community putting on the table that is concrete?
E-Towner January 08, 2014 at 04:12 PM
The Evanston community can support and help the neighborhood, but the plan has to come FROM the neighborhood. This may be semantics, but I think about Evanston as a community. There are different neighborhoods that comprise "our community." The challenges facing the neighborhood surrounding ETHS are numerous. Notwithstanding the challenges, the violence experienced over the last several years is unacceptable, or should be unacceptable to everyone in that neighborhood and the entire community. Ownership of the plan and accountability is critical for its success. I mentioned the clergy, but I'm sure there are other leaders who would like to see this dream become a reality. It's the start of a New Year. Let's think BIG.
Tantor January 08, 2014 at 10:21 PM
These cameras are useless because they will not have enough resolution to identify culprits. Mayor said as much in an interview last year with Ms. Fisher and other journalists. And no one will 24 hours watching what the cameras are capturing, again as per the Mayor. It is all window dressing to avoid going after the Gang-sters and the Gangs--excuse me the "families," "groups," etc. (the preferred euphemism of the Evanston authorities who avoid using the word GANGS like the plague).
Marya F January 10, 2014 at 07:17 PM
I cannot believe anyone would be opposed to these cameras. 58% of ETHS students "do not feel safe" - isn't that enough incentive to make the change? I mean, really - how can this possibly HARM anyone? At the very least, it will not help solve crime and will just be an innocuous addition to the city. At the very best, it will lower crime, or help police identify perpetrators. Maybe it will even deter criminals from engaging in certain crimes that seemed easy to pull off before (like strong-arm robbery for an iPhone, or pulling a knife in exchange for a wallet). Again I find it insane that anyone would waste time and energy arguing about this. The Mayor should be commended for trying to push this forward.
Bobby Burns January 10, 2014 at 07:52 PM
Ms. Marya F, I'm not sure where you heard 58% of E.T.H.S students "do not feel safe." This article states that 58% of students FEEL SAFE around E.T.H.S. Also, you will be happy to know that cameras are already being installed around E.T.H.S.
Mildred January 10, 2014 at 10:28 PM
Need Drones flying around the area
Jordan S. Zoot January 11, 2014 at 12:16 PM
The drones would be a great idea provided they are armed with missiles and actively respond to thugs
Tantor January 11, 2014 at 04:37 PM
What "families" like the ones mentioned by the Evanston authorities are branching into these days throughout the US (Mr. Mintz of Curt's Cafe is a recent example): http://www.cbs8.com/story/24400678/alleged-gang-members-charged-in-major-sex-trafficking-ring


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