By Devin Rose
Oak Park's train stations and nearby light poles are getting outfitted with cameras, at no cost to the village, thanks to two separate initiatives.
The Chicago Transit Authority has installed at least 40 fixed cameras on each of the Blue Line platforms and vestibules from Austin Boulevard to Lombard Avenue, and from Oak Park Avenue to East Avenue, said Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley.
The CTA cameras first appeared in Oak Park about a year ago. More will be installed along the Lake Street el, which they hope will be operational by Christmas, said Deputy Chief Anthony Ambrose.
As part of the separate Cook County Camera Initiative, the village acquired five cameras about a year ago that can pan, tilt and zoom to keep an eye on the trains from nearby light poles. Tanksley said the CTA hadn't started their installations when Oak Park first got cameras from the county.
Right now there are three county cameras on the Green Line and two on the Blue line in Oak Park, but they haven't been used because more training of staff is necessary, Tanksley said. The cameras will likely be up and running in a few weeks.
Video from the county's cameras will be available to police officers at the station, while footage captured on CTA cameras would have to be requested by Oak Park police.
In the future, officers might even be able to see county camera footage from their cars, said information technology director Alvin Nepomuceno.
A third safety initiative, now a couple weeks old, will keep Oak Park residents in the loop through phone calls, emails or text messages.
Anyone wishing to receive public safety notifications, which could include weather incidents, power outages or crime, can register at www.oak-park.us/notifyme.
Village spokesman David Powers said the notifications have been discussed for a couple of years. The village had an automated dialing system years ago, he said, but the number of landlines is now shrinking. This system enables the police and fire departments to get accurate information out in the early moments after an incident occurs, Tanksley said. A missing child, gas leak, or homicide are the kind of incidents that could be reported to the public. Powers added that the village's winter parking regulations would be worthy of notifications as well.
The system, operated by RapidNotify, a California-based provider of emergency notification, will cost the village $11,340 for the first year and $10,840 each year after, Powers said.