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Uptown in the News  

May 4, 2005
48th Ward to set security cameras at L stations, nearby
By (Angela Caputo), Staff Writer

Edgewater resident Chuck Elliot said he fears crime at some of the Red Line L stations.

"People have been shot, assaulted and killed on those platforms," said Elliott, 52, who takes the L to work downtown.

While public safety has improved, Elliott said, there's still "too much hanging around outside" the stations.

Elliott is among neighbors and local business people welcoming plans to hoist a series of security and police cameras this summer at 48th Ward L stations and Winthrop Avenue, about a block or less from the stations.

Ald. Mary Ann Smith (48th) has been given the go-ahead to fund three $40,000 police cameras at the corners of Winthrop Avenue at Granville, Thorndale and Argyle, said Greg Harris, the alderman's chief of staff. Funds will come from the annual ward budget sometimes referred to as "menu" money.

Flashing blue lights will mark the surveillance equipment that will be wired to the city's 911 center so police can monitor and review footage from the three locations. Harris says he hopes the cameras will be up and running by summer.

Police say the new surveillance strategy will help drive drug dealers and loiterers off the blocks long identified as "hot spots'.

Coupled with a stepped-up presence of tactical officers, 20th District CAPS Officer Cesar Garcia said that "to add (reinforcement) to this area is only a positive thing".

And still more cameras are coming.

Funded through a Broadway Avenue Special Service Area tax, camera will also be posted at the Thorndale and Granville L stops, SSA administrator Tom Jerome said.

The $30,000 equipment will have the capacity to pan down nearby streets and alleys as well as the L platforms. Initially, the eight cameras at each station will go unmonitored, but all will be wired with the capacity to connect with police equipment.

Scheduled for installation during the first week of June, the new equipment is only the first phase of the operation, with still more cameras planned by the SSA for the Bryn Mawr and Berwyn stop later this year.

Edgewater Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sheli Lulkin said the camera are expected to strengthen community policing efforts and discourage crime from occurring in the first place.

But "if something happens, we can backtrack" and view footage to analyze the incident, aid police investigations and bolster evidence for prosecutors, she said.

While many residents welcome additional security measures, some say the outcome may be bittersweet.

Uptown resident Marcellius Burnett, 14, said "The camera will be good because we won't get beat up." But the 14-year-old Gale Academy student added, "they're bad because some people we know are selling dope. They shouldn't be selling dope but I don't want to see my (friends) going to jail."

Others question how effective the cameras will be in actually improving safety.

Living virtually under the camera slated for the corner of Granville and Winthrop, Anita Bloomingburg, 22, said, "I would feel safe if someone was monitoring it at night when I'm walking home alone.

"But if nobody's watching it, what's the purpose?" the young nurse added.

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