Mayor, police chief push for neighborhood cameras despite privacy concerns

Mayor Miner and Chief Fowler address the media Wednesday morning.

Syracuse's Mayor and Police Chief are calling the 'explosion of crime' on Syracuse's near west side a priority concern, and want the Common Council to authorize crime surveillance cameras in the area as soon as possible.Mayor Stephanie Miner and Police Chief Frank Fowler say the camera's locations would be based on crime data. They displayed several maps showing crime in that neighborhood, which has 6% of the city's population, but has reported 23% of shots fired cases and 13 violent felonies. Mayor Miner also says that cameras in this neighborhood would address a city-wide crime issue: data shows that many crimes committed in other parts of the city are also linked to residents or other elements in this neighborhood.

Representatives of several city groups in favor of the cameras attended Wednesday morning's news conference at the Syracuse Police Storefront, at the intersection of Otisco Street and Ontario Street. Syracuse United Neighbors is passing around a petition urging action, and will present that to councilors. Besides cutting crime, they say the extra surveillance will also be a big step toward restoring property values and rebuilding the neighborhood. Walt Dixie, from Jubilee Homes, who lives on Geddes Street, says the cameras would help protect seniors and other long-time residents who've stuck with the neighborhood.

There have been protests against the cameras, including one just a week ago. Concerns include invasion of privacy, and possible use of the video to track non-violent crimes, including immigration law violators. Miner says those who are concerned have been given 'unprecedented' access to the police guidelines in the works for the tapes' use. She also says all videos will be encrypted and treated as police evidence, with strict rules on who will have access, and with policy to erase copies, if not tied to a crime, within two weeks.

City Hall has released copies of the maps, and of questionnaire responses on the crime surveillance camera proposals. Click here to download and read a copy of those maps and reports.

The Common Council could vote on the proposal as early as Monday, with installations to begin as quickly as the equipment can be put on the police-designated intersections.

Among those concerned about the cameras plan, the Civil Liberties Union, which is collecting petition signatures to slow the approval process until safeguards for privacy and other concerns are in place. Representatives plan to be at the Monday meeting to state their case.