Earlier this week, the City of Evanston learned it had received a $107,000 grant for the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program. At the same time, the Police Department learned that its application for another share of those funds to install security cameras along two major Evanston streets had been rejected. Cook County administers these federal funds through its local Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM).
Emails from DHSEM to Evanston Police Sergeant Kevin Campbell and to the City’s Youth and Young Adult Program Manager, Kevin Brown, said Cook County had received more than 60 applications, totaling more than $6 million, for its $1.6 million in Justice Assistant Grant (JAG) program funds. The email indicated that there would be a further opportunity to apply for a competitive grant later this year.
Youth Jobs Program Bolstered
In April, the annual summer youth job fair attracted about 500 young Evanstonians looking for summer work in the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Sixty-two businesses and not-for-profit agencies promised to hire at least one youth. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl had set a goal of finding jobs for 500 youth.
“These are exciting times for the Evanston Youth and Young Adult Division,” said Mr. Brown. “Currently, we have 365 youth ( who participated in the job fair) working at City departments and with private employers.” The $107,639.23 grant will fund 52 part-time and 31 full-time seasonal jobs for at-risk Evanston youth, he said.
“The additional 83 positions will bring our total Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program to 448 positions – so far the most we have ever had in the program’s history dating back to 1992. With the addition of the 83 positions we are on target to meet our program goal of 500 positions,” Mr. Brown said.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said, “The students who come to interview at the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Fair are all wonderful young people who are eager to work. I am delighted that we will be able to provide more jobs for them.”
Dickelle Fonda, who opposed the camera corridors, said, “We are grateful that the Department of Homeland Security at Cook County concluded that what is really needed in Evanston for the well-being for all of our youth is job creation rather than the creation of a camera surveillance corridor cutting through the heart of our city.”
No Funding for Cameras
On Jan. 27, City Council voted 5-3 to apply for $700,000 to fund the installation of an array of security cameras along Dodge Avenue from Howard Street to Simpson Street and along Church Street from McCormick Boulevard to Ridge Avenue.
Police Chief Richard Eddington told the RoundTable, “It is not certain at this point what the County has and has not funded.” He noted that the City’s request was for just under half of the total of funds available through the County and said he understood that the dollars had to be stretched as far as possible.
“I’ve been led to believe that the only cameras funded were in-car cameras,” Chief Eddington said, adding that Evanston police vehicles already have those.
The cameras proposed would not have facial-recognition software, nor would they be continually monitored, Chief Eddington said. They would be used both to dispatch police and other necessary emergency vehicles to a spot where a crime is occurring or has recently occurred, and to help solve crimes after they have been committed. The Chief said the police department does not have the personnel to regularly monitor security cameras, and that cameras are more useful in solving crimes after the fact.
Although nearly all residents who spoke at the Jan. 27 City Council meeting and at two neighborhood meetings held late last year said they opposed the cameras, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl continually said she believed that the community supported the cameras. She first proposed the camera corridor along Church Street and Dodge Avenue at Second and Fifth ward meetings last year.
Mayor Tisdahl expressed disappointment that the County did not fund the camera proposal. “It was difficult to hear the news about the cameras on the same day I spoke at the funeral of homicide victim Alante Vallejo,” she said.
Doria Johnson, who opposed the cameras, said, “We were adamant that the distribution of these cameras was inherently unfair, and sold to the public as a safety tool, but whose history are really tied to surveillance of racially discriminated and economically challenged groups. However the decision was made to deny Evanston, we are thrilled the initiative has died, for now.”