West Ch­ester po­lice chief pushes for se­cu­rity cam­eras

The de­vices would be in­stalled in bor­ough’s cen­tral busi­ness district

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Adam Farence afarence@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @afarence on Twit­ter

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.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

This sur­veil­lance cam­era is lo­cated out­side of the Ch­ester County of­fices at 313 W. Mar­ket St. in West Ch­ester.

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