At the Nov. 21 Fifth Ward meeting, when Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl explained to residents her plan to have cameras installed on Church Street from McCormick Boulevard to Ridge Avenue and on Dodge Avenue from Simpson Street to Howard Street, the reception was warmer than at the Second Ward meeting the week before.
Mayor Tisdahl said a survey of Evanston Township High School students showed that, while they are not afraid when they are at the school, 27 percent said they are afraid coming to and leaving school property. Her solution, she said, is to install the cameras along those two main arteries.
“My concern is that 27 percent of the kids,” she said.
The cameras would not be intrusive, said Mayor Tisdahl. “They are just going to look at the sidewalk,” she said – a point both she and Police Chief Richard Eddington made at the Second Ward meeting on Nov. 14.
Chief Eddington said at the Nov. 14 meeting that the cameras would not be peering into windows but would monitor street activity only. He also said the technology of the cameras would not have facial recognition capability.
Sergeant Collier of the Evanston Police Department said, “Anything we can do to make kids safer. … The safe school zone was not in keeping with the livability of Evanston. Cameras – I think we need them. Cameras are not going to be intrusive, not going to look inside the home, and [are] going to give real-time information to the Police Department.
“Kids would feel safer if they chose to walk where the cameras are,” Mayor Tisdahl said. “The Police Chief feels that [cameras are] a pretty decent way to prevent crime.”
The Mayor said the City would apply for a grant from Homeland Security through Cook County. “I plan to ask for this in January – if the community agrees.”
Few of the residents at the Fifth Ward meeting weighed in on the Mayor’s camera proposal, but those who did appeared to support it.
Patricia Efiom, pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, said she had visited the 911 center to see how the cameras already in use are monitored. “It’s nice to know there are cameras downtown,” she said.
Brandi Efiom, a student at Evanston Township High School, said she “really likes the idea of cameras. There have been times that fights have broken out or people threatened each other. … I know Security will come, but sometimes it seems they are a little slow.”
One resident asked how the cameras would help kids who bike to school. Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said there will be a westbound protected bike lane on Davis Street that will connect with the eastbound protected lane on Church Street – connected by a north-south street west of Asbury Avenue, possibly Florence Avenue, by Mason Park.
Mayor Tisdahl also said, “Nobody is going to be watching and monitoring” the cameras.
Dorothy Headd said she thought the cameras were “a good idea … but if nobody’s going to be watching …”
“Not exactly,” said the Mayor. “Statistically, it’s a preventive measure, because people know if they do something they will be on camera. It kind of says, ‘Don’t mess with our children.’”
Pastor Efiom said the cameras in downtown Evanston can be switched “so they can look at you.”
“I think there are a lot of cameras now,” said Ms. Headd. “That’s a way of life.”
“I think people are kind of past those privacy concerns,” said Mayor Tisdahl. She said she would present the proposal to City Council at one of its December meetings. “I don’t want to apply for a grant and have to return the money because the community didn’t want it.” She added she would meet with neighbors “on either side of Church and Dodge.”
The Mayor is planning two community meetings: one at 7 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave. and at the other at 7 p.m. on Dec. 18 at Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, 1655 Foster St.