Colorado Springs wants to bring Big Brother back downtown.
Police Chief Pete Carey said Monday that the city plans to install 10 surveillance video cameras throughout downtown. The cameras would be installed in phases by June.
“The cameras will cost a little over $160,000 to install and set up, and every year there will be about a $25,000 maintenance cost to keep them going,” Carey said.
Mayor Steve Bach said he’s not comfortable with cameras but that he’s responding to community requests. Bach assembled a group to look at how to revitalize downtown.
“I view this as a test,” he said, adding that the program could be expanded in other parts of the city if it works.
The push to install surveillance cameras, which must be approved by the City Council, comes just months after the Police Department removed a set of red-light cameras from Nevada Avenue and Bijou Street downtown and three other intersections across the city.
Carey said the red-light cameras, as well as a photo radar enforcement program, were designed to increase traffic safety. Carey said public opinion factored into the decision to remove the red-light cameras when he announced the end of those two programs.
The red-light camera program is substantially different from this proposal, he said.
“This camera program is to increase safety in the downtown area against criminal actions,” he said.
The proposed surveillance cameras are part of a larger effort to clean up downtown and turn it into an economic engine for Colorado Springs.
“People are unwilling to come downtown and spend their dollars,” said Steve Cox, the city’s chief of economic vitality and innovation.
“There are a host of reasons,” he said. “Personal security is one of those reasons.”
In addition to installing surveillance cameras, the city plans to pitch in $23,275 to help buy a sidewalk sweeper and increase police overtime by $25,000 in 2012.
“My hope is that if we pilot a project downtown in an area that does have some pretty dense crime patterns, maybe we can roll this out to other parts of the city in a year or so, if we see some good results,” Carey said. “I believe that video surveillance and camera systems may be the future to deterring crime in high crime areas.”