West Chester police chief pushes for security cameras
The devices would be installed in borough’s central business district
WEST CHESTER >> Borough residents, bar patrons, and others who frequent what is often described as the nightlife section of the borough might have some extra eyes in the sky watching them before too much longer, or at least mounted on the sides of buildings.
In hopes to deter criminal activity and, when it does occur, to help investigators solve crimes and secure convictions, West Chester Police Chief Scott Bohn has requested funds to install and operate two or three 24-hour surveillance cameras in the nightlife district, which is officially referred to as West Chester’s Central Business District.
Bohn defines downtown West Chester as the area from Chestnut Street to Minor Street, and from Matlack Street to New Street. He said the startup cost for this proposed system is around $30,000.
“We can’t be in all places at all times,” Bohn said, talking about the demands placed on the police department as the borough continues to grow.
He cited West Chester’s increasing reputation as a destination town in the tri-county area, which draws patrons from the tri-state area and West Chester University, as well as dozens of community events as reasons to install ad-
ditional security cameras.
In his 2015 year-end report, Bohn noted the number of police calls increased by 18 percent from 2014 to 2015, and he noted an increase in the number of assaults and combative behavior early in the morning, behavior which he attributed to the consumption of alcohol.
He also made a point; however, to state there is very little “Part I” crime in that area. According to the FBI, Part I crimes are the most severe a person can commit, such as homicide and rape.
“It’s important to highlight we don’t have a crime issue in our business district,” he said.
This proposition seems to have community support. Malcolm Johnstone, executive director for the West Chester Business Improvement District, said he supports the plan and that local businesses he’s spoken with do as well.
According to Johnstone, there are a little over 60 restaurants in the borough, about 30 of which have a liquor license.
Some local residents also want the cameras as well. Dean and Alison Donley set up a gofundme page in hopes of raising $100,000 to install these cameras. On their page, they wrote that someone close to them had been assaulted, and wanted the cameras to help prevent and prosecute future crimes.
However, according to the Mary Catherine Roper, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), security cameras often do not have a significant impact on crime, and can allow for misuse if the staff monitoring the video feeds are not trained properly.
“Numerous studies have debunked the idea that these cameras have reduced crime,” Roper said.
However, Bohn said the persons monitoring the cameras are trained, and flatly refuted the ACLU’s assertion that security cameras do not have a significant impact on crime.
Bohn did not give any specific locations where these cameras would be installed, except that they would be in the nightlife district. He said the contents on the cameras would be deleted in 30 days unless something would be needed as evidence.
“Our police department does an excellent job, but we can’t be everywhere at once,” Bohn said.
This surveillance camera is located outside of the Chester County offices at 313 W. Market St. in West Chester.