River Forest will expand its street camera program following action by the village board last week.

Elected officials voted unanimously at the Jan. 10 village board meeting to authorize the village’s contracted vendor, Griffon Systems, to install seven Avigilon System street cameras and related hardware/software in the area bounded by Madison and Washington streets and Lathrop and Thatcher avenues.

The $94,000 cost will be covered with funds from the Madison Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund and the Capital Improvement Fund. The expansion was budgeted and funded for fiscal year 2021 but deferred to 2022 to allow the village to enter into a new camera vendor agreement for maintenance service and future camera installations.

The program began in 2009 and 2010 with the installation of 18 cameras along Lake Street between Harlem Avenue and Thatcher, along Central Avenue between Lathrop and Harlem and in the village-owned lot at 400 Thatcher. This year’s expansion will be followed by future expansions in two more phases.

“The system has just been amazing,” Police Chief Jim O’Shea told trustees while recommending approval.

He said the high-definition cameras will be installed on main streets. They will be motion-activated and operational around the clock. Images will be retained for 90 days.

“The village’s street camera system has been a very successful force multiplier, crime prevention tool, evidence-gathering application, police accountability device and overall situational awareness tool for the Lake Street financial, business, and educational corridor,” O’Shea said in a memo to Brian Murphy, village administrator. “The Phase 1 expansion will offer residents and businesses in Madison and Washington corridor the same protections and transparencies as the original project.”

By preordering some equipment and software and because information technology is already in place, he said he anticipates a “quick turnaround” in installing the cameras with the seven new devices in place within 30 days.

O’Shea stressed that the cameras are not speed cameras or red-light cameras nor will they have the capability to provide license plate images.

“Public camera systems are considered a cost-effective way to deter, document and reduce crime,” he said in the memo. “In addition, these systems help provide enhanced customer service to victims of crimes and help develop crime prevention strategies.”

In addition to providing officer transparency and officer accountability, O’Shea said the cameras can aid searches for missing people, identify weather conditions and assist with accident investigations.

O’Shea said the program also provides assistance to other nearby police departments that might be seeking a suspect or suspect’s vehicle if it crossed a boundary from another municipality into River Forest.

He said the south zone was targeted for the first phase expansion due to “slight increases” in auto burglaries, auto theft and garage burglaries. He also noted that residents in this area have seen increased violent crimes on the village’s borders in Forest Park and Maywood.

In addition, complaints of cars speeding or disregarding traffic control devices and reckless driving are part of resident concerns in this area, which affect the quality of life, he added.

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