Champaign considers UI request for more surveillance cameras

Champaign considers UI request for more surveillance cameras

CHAMPAIGN — From catching sex offenders in the act to tracking down the people who pepper-sprayed a random student inside the Illini Union, University of Illinois police have used on-campus security cameras to help crack a slew of cases.

Now, with the blessing of the city of Champaign, they're hoping to use the same technology beyond UI property.

Two years after being initially approved by the city council, the issue of UI-operated security cameras on city property in Campustown is back on the agenda. Tonight, the council will consider a proposal to install new cameras on Green Street (from Neil to Wright streets) and Sixth Street (between John and Green).

If approved, the cameras will be owned and operated by the UI Police Department, which already operates 1,444 of them and intends to add at least 200 in the next year.

That first figure has grown by more than 350 since the council last considered the idea at a study session in August 2014. At the time, the council gave its initial approval, voting 7-2 with Tom Bruno and Marci Dodds in the minority. There has been significant turnover since then, with three of the nine council seats changing, including Dodds'.

Bruno said Monday he still plans to oppose the idea.

"I don't want to have the stain in our hands in assisting the university in a surveillance system that is more broad than it needs to be and has the potential for government mischief," said Bruno, an attorney.

The expansion of security cameras has helped solve many crimes on campus, according to council documents. Between September 2011 and December 2015, UIPD used its cameras in 300 criminal investigations. In 127 of those investigations, UIPD credits the cameras with identifying subjects who wouldn't have been ID'd otherwise.

Among the most notable, which also include thefts, robberies and arson:

— On April 7, 2013, an 18-year-old woman was entering Allen Hall in Urbana around 3 a.m., when she was pulled outside by a man who attempted to sexually assault her before two people intervened.

Because of the video, an Urbana police officer recognized the perpetrator as a known sex offender, who was arrested within an hour, convicted and sentenced to 61 years in prison.

— In May 2014, a sex offender was exposing himself to people in UI libraries. He was identified by the video and later sentenced to prison.

— In November 2015, a group of girls approached a UI student and, out of nowhere, pepper-sprayed her. Photos of the four girls were pulled from surveillance video and posted on social media, where they were identified as juveniles and arrested.

The Green Street corridor and the stretch of Sixth between Green and John that would be covered by the new cameras accounted for 53 percent of the crimes against people reported in the campus district, according to the Champaign Police Department.

The intersections of Sixth and John, Sixth and Green, Fourth and Green and Wright and Green account for 13 percent of all calls for service and 15 percent of violent crime on campus reported to the CPD, according to council documents.

It is unclear why there was an almost two-year delay in bringing the item forward from the time of the study session.

The cameras wouldn't be installed for six months to a year, and, though the university would own them, the city would pay about $150 per year in electricity to operate each one. The UI hopes to install security cameras along the new MCORE project between First Street in Champaign and Lincoln Avenue in Urbana.

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

loopillini wrote on June 21, 2016 at 8:06 am

It is an extreme conflict of interest for a criminal defense attorney to vote on this issue. It is not too hard to understand why Tom Bruno would not want these cameras installed. He should recuse himself from the vote instead of trying to create a " big brother bogeyman" story to try to justify away his vote against public safety.

robby71 wrote on June 21, 2016 at 9:06 am

Of course they should install more cameras. Campustown is a hotspot for robberies in the Champaign-Urbana area, and the cameras not only help solve those crimes but serve as a significant deterrent. Mr Bruno can shove his concerns up his behind.

The extra cameras may inconvenience the criminals that Mr Bruno represents in court, but these cameras are good news for the rest of us.

 

Orbiter wrote on June 21, 2016 at 10:06 am

Once they've caught the violent criminals, maybe they can use these cameras to start cracking down on the jaywalkers and mobile-phone-distracted drivers. That should bring in plenty of revenue to pay the electric bill and more. 

BruckJr wrote on June 21, 2016 at 10:06 am

lol @ Bruno.  Why in the world would he vote for anything that might limit his client base and associated paydays.

mstook423 wrote on June 21, 2016 at 12:06 pm

It is hard to believe that a single video camera would consume $150 in electricity each year.  That's $30,000 per year for the 200 cameras.