By Dan Marries, KOLD News 13
It's an idea that's worked in other cities, and Tucson police think it can work here. The department is working on a proposal to install crime-spotting cameras downtown. They would work similar to the traffic cameras already in place along I-10.
Although there are areas of the city where crime is much higher, downtown Tucson has battled the perception for years that it's a dangerous place to visit.
Downtown Minneapolis: a man starts a fight, but it's only a distraction so his partner in crime can grab a woman's purse. Using a network of cameras, officers watch it unfold. In just over a minute the thief is caught. It's this kind of technology police want to install in downtown Tucson.
Asst. Chief Kathleen Robinson of TPD says, "I want people to be able to come downtown and not worry about their children at the Rialto at a concert or being at the TCC or at a concert somewhere I want them to feel comfortable and safe."
Robinson will soon ask the mayor and council for approval of a program called "The Rio Nuevo Safe City Centro," a proposal to install 14 remote controlled security cameras up and down the major thoroughfares of downtown.
"It's a great deterrent for the petty theft for the petty crimes, for the quality of life issues and with the violent crime."
But the idea is already getting mixed reactions.
Ethan Edgecomb says, "It sounds to me we're getting closer to more of a police state where big brother is keeping an eye on us and I'm totally against it."
Kurt Latimer says, "If I'm not doing anything wrong it shouldn't bother me but there's the whole 1984 big brother aspect."
Amy Robinson says, "I recently had my car broken into, not here in downtown, but I just like the idea of security of more observation perhaps it would be a crime deterrent."
If approved, the program would rely on downtown businesses to pitch in to actually help buy the cameras and to pay for the electricity to keep them running.
Russ Gillespe of Dizzy G's Restaurant says, "I think it's a good idea. I'm not sure how much the small businesses can afford to chip in on to help with the cameras."
Bottom line, according to police, is the safety of downtown visitors, residents, and business owners.
Robinson says, "If you're gonna commit crimes you're gonna get caught, we don't want you downtown."
Assistant Chief Robinson will pitch this idea to the City Council next month. If it's approved, it would get jump started by a grant from the Target corporation, known for its successful asset protection program.
Tucson is one of only five cities across the country where Target has offered to help defray the initial costs of setting up this network of cameras.
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