Evanston police will have new assistance in solving crime after the Evanston City Council voted April 26 to approve a contract to build an outdoor camera system in areas of south, west and downtown Evanston. The initial plan would place outdoor cameras at three different locations on the city’s south and west sides, and at nine different locations in downtown Evanston. The city’s police chief, Richard Eddington, said, “The cameras were not meant to replace any current crime prevention methods, including the neighborhood watch groups and community policing officers.” He added, “This is like adding another tool to the belt.”
Evanston joins Chicago, Bellwood and Maywood as communities that have embraced the technology of the 21st century to fight crime. Why are there not cameras in the Village of Oak Park? After all, past members of the village board have voted to declare Oak Park a “nuclear free zone.” Unfortunately, when it comes to effectively maintaining the safety of its citizens, the village board of the People’s Republic of Oak Park does not feel that cameras are a “fit,” otherwise, they’d be installed. If your loved one is waiting for a CTA train, would you not want that person to enjoy the protection of a camera system in the event of a robbery or battery? I surely would.
A few years back, I attended a coffee in my neighborhood with then candidates, now members, of the Oak Park village board. I detailed the deterioration of the “quality of life” in Oak Park due to crime. These candidates hear how it is unsafe for children to ride their bicycles alone in the village. Every summer we have multiple incidents where a young child is knocked of his or her bicycle by older adolescents, sometimes receiving great bodily harm. The candidates did listen and “felt my pain,” but have done nothing to alleviate the problem. Another guest at the club stated, “I will move out of the village if they put up cameras to infringe on my privacy.” To which I stated, “Madam, if you have something to hide, you should move out of the village.”
I personally know many members of the Oak Park Police Department. As past chairman of the Citizens Police Oversight Committee, I am qualified to attest to the professionalism and dedication of the department and its leadership. I am sure that police would welcome the aid of a camera system that would help them do their job more effectively.
Question: What is the problem?
Answer: Your village trustees and president.
Oak Park should have cameras on all major thoroughfares. The cameras should also be deployed in downtown Oak Park, in parks and near the high school. Our police department is understaffed due to budgetary problems. Cameras do not need vacations, they are never sick, and they are not eligible for pensions! Cameras provide a cost-effective way to fight crime.
A terrorist recently tried to explode a bomb in downtown Manhattan. A surveillance camera identified that individual and he was apprehended. The Department of Homeland Security feels they have the right person in custody, (Of course, he is innocent until proven guilty.)
I urge my fellow Oak Parkers to contact the elected officials and insist that we install a camera safety system. There is no need for debate. Time is of the essence when public safety is at risk.
Daniel R. Hefner is an Oak Park resident and former chairman of the Citizens Police Oversight Committee.