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.
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.