The nine surveillance cameras on west side light posts are small but can cover a wide area. They've been running for about four months and police say they have already provided valuable information in multiple investigations. On Wednesday, Police Chief Frank Fowler said the cameras had provided information that led to the arrest of a murder suspect. In addition to leads, the cameras have generated plenty of controversy. Many neighbors want to know more about who's watching them - and why.
"How can you go to work when you're being watched 24/7?" asked David Nieswah. Nieswah said the cameras made him feel uncomfortable.
The American Civil Liberties Union has said the cameras can lead to an unreasonable invasion of privacy but the cameras do have some support from other neighbors. Rich Puchalski from Syracuse United Neighbors said he's regularly hearing from people on the Near West Side who feel safer since the cameras were installed.
"A lot of people are telling us that particularly at night and on weekends they've noticed a dramatic reduction in shots fired," said Puchalski on Friday morning.
Police Chief Frank Fowler has said he isn't looking to invade anyone's privacy and that he's just using modern tools to make Syracuse safer. Fowler put the cameras in some of the highest crime areas in Syracuse and says he hopes to bring to more of them to other city neighborhoods.
Fowler says new statistics generated by the Police Department are the clearest evidence of the difference the cameras have made. Fowler had staff compare crimes reported from the Near West Side from April to August 2010 and the same period in 2011. Drug, weapon and violent crimes all decreased. There were 643 fewer police calls to the area than a year before and overall reported crimes dropped from 1537 to 998.
Fowler says he hopes to install more cameras in other Syracuse neighborhoods. Under an agreement with the Common Council, Syracuse Police have assess potential neighborhoods and meet with neighbors about their concerns before installing cameras. It cost $125,000 to install and connect the nine cameras on the Near West Side but Fowler said he has already found funding for more.
"Through state government, through grants we've gone after, the money exists right now for us to put up at least 26 additional cameras - if not more," said Fowler on Friday afternoon.
Many west side neighbors say they have mixed feelings on the cameras. Yaiquamie Archie said he wants safer streets but some privacy. Archie said he hopes to see more statistics on how effective the cameras are.
"If we know how much crime is being stopped or how it benefits the community then we could think about putting more in the areas but if it's not going towards that, it's just an invasion of privacy," said Archie.