Stopping crime with electric eyes

May 19, 2009 4:00:23 PM PDT
A group of Houston residents are tired of car break-ins and graffiti. They complain that both have become far too common in their neighborhoods and business districts. Now they're doing something about it.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Business owners on the west side say cameras have helped deter criminals and now they're looking to take that idea and set cameras up in public places.

At the restaurant that bears his name, Richard Santos proudly points to what he believes is the most effective crime fighting tool in the neighborhood, a cluster of security cameras.

"Before we had them we had a lot of problems with thefts, but ever since we've had the cameras put in, nil, hardly any," he told us.

The Houston Westchase District tested out 11 camera locations as an experiment more than a year ago. Since then, the cameras have been a hit with areas businesses.

"We're trying to provide a higher level of visibility in certain areas to act as a deterrent and have a greater ability to apprehend criminals without having to put a police officer on street corner," said Jim Murphy with the Houston Westchase District.

The Westchase District is teaming up with Jim McInvale to expand the camera program to other public locations in Houston's west side. Each camera location will be determined and approved by the Houston Police Department.

"Linda and I moved into this neighborhood over a year ago, and promised we weren't leaving until we had helped change this community for the better," McIngvale said. "After over a year of consulting with HPD as well as numerous business, citizen and civic groups, we believe this camera program is the most cost-effective way concerned citizens can have a direct impact and help HPD strengthen public safety in West Houston."

Cameras spying on the public can sometimes make citizens nervous, but HPD says these images will only be accessed when necessary.

"The only time that we intend to use them is if there is a critical incident and we know that we can log on and get an immediate feed for the safety of the citizens and officers responding," said Assistant Chief Vickie King with the Houston Police Department.

The city ordinance forbids cameras in public places to watch private property, but if you ask Santos, he says the more cameras, the safer he feels.

"At first they told me I had my doubts but it really has been a pleasant surprise," he admitted.

MORE: www.westsidesuccess.org

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