The Cheney Police Department plans to use grant money received from the Department of Homeland Security to install a surveillance camera and the infrastructure needed to control it on the corner of First Street and College Street.
According to Cheney Police Chief Jeff Sale, the Police department has been awarded $69,000 in federal funding to support a remote camera system that would cover a two-block area extending from College Street to the west.
“We are starting to see an increase in property losses in that area,” Sale said.
According to Sale, between 2002 and 2008, the city conducted approximately $31,000 in repairs to damaged lighting and electrical fixtures, and noted that between 2006 and 2008 the department documented a substantial increase in misdemeanor and felony arrests made in that area. In 2008, the Cheney Police Department recorded 18 assaults, four of which were felony assaults.
The camera would be solely controlled by the police department, said Sale, allowing a dispatcher or officer to bring up a live camera image of the area on their computers, or to review previously recorded material. Sale said that to the department, it will be a valuable investigative tool to follow up on reports of crime, and will possibly be a deterrent for crime in general.
“The purpose here is not to just sit there and watch the camera,” Sale said. “If we are in another part of town handling calls, we can have a supervisor bring up the image and better determine how to deploy what resources he’s got.
“If we get a report of 30 people fighting on First Street, we can bring that camera up and see if we really have 30 people fighting down there, or if we’ve got two people fighting and 28 people watching,” he said.
The final decision to install the camera will be made by the Cheney City Council. The decision was removed from the agenda during the Feb. 10 council meeting to allow several city council members time to attend an educational meeting, according to Council member Curt Huff.
“The training is to show how the camera operates, and also the policies that can be established by the council on the proper use and who has authority to view this camera,” said Huff.
The meeting that council members would attend is a public safety, technology and policy symposium funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services being held in Nevada, March 31, 2009, according to Sale.
Privacy rights advocates in opposition to the camera think that the sense of freedom that comes from being anonymous in public could be lost. Sale said that they needn’t worry.
“The majority of people don’t care one way or the other. I think the biggest fear of the privacy advocates is that they think we are just going to sit there and just watch and see what they do every day,” Sale said. “We don’t have the time or the desire to do that.”
Shelly Bauge, owner of “A Creative Touch” nail salon on the corner of First Street and College Street, said that she supports the department’s initiative to install the camera. Bauge’s business of 14 years has felt the impact of the crime in that area and she says she has noticed a drastic increase in damage to her property within the last five years.
“Both my windows have been broken out with beer bottles in the last year. I don’t know if it’s the college students or the local drunks,” Bauge said. “I don’t know if they necessarily need cameras; somebody could patrol it a little more, but they are getting a grant, so it’s not costing us anything.”
Bauge said that the local bars on First Street are the bad element, and that Thursday nights are when most of the drinking and crime happens.