Driving home from work on Roosevelt Road the other night, I saw a strange sight. Red and blue police lights ahead in the distance, but they seemed to be far higher than the traffic ahead of me. Once I got near the Jewel Roosevelt Market, I saw that the Berwyn police had installed a “crime camera” near the Culver’s parking lot.

I thought the idea of the Roosevelt corridor improvement was to spruce things up and attract business. Perhaps the Berwyn P.D. thinks that the eternally flashing squad-car-like lights will reassure citizens that they are safe under the department’s watchful eye. They could not be more wrong. Nothing announces to people, “This is a crappy, crime-ridden neighborhood. Please avoid it, just keep driving,” quite like one of these surveillance devices. One friend referred to it as the “Ghetto-Cam.”

In recent months, I have seen Berwyn cops walking a beat down the Roosevelt corridor. I welcome that. I believe such actions put a great face on the department. The presence of a crime-cam sends a very different message. Both are law enforcement tools, but the Berwyn P.D. needs to realize that perception is everything.

A pair of cops walking a beat tells citizens and customers, “We’re here, we care, we want to be part of the neighborhood.” A crime-cam tells folks, “We’ve given up. You’re on your own. If something bad happens to you, we’ll have a video — maybe.”

Mostly it says, “Something bad is going to happen to you.” A camera on a lamppost completely erodes confidence in a police department and in a municipality. If Berwyn officials want to look like they’re hunkering down in a bunker, cowering in fear, this is the perfect way to do it.

Law enforcement video surveillance in itself is an argument for another day. The flashing lights drawing attention to this box is unsettling for those living here, bad for property values and a death blow to business.

Please shut off the red and blue lights.

D.M. Ewald
Oak Park

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