Superior’s Finance Committee is considering spending up to $750,000 to install a camera system to cover public spaces throughout the city.
Superior Police Chief Nick Alexander presented the proposal to the city’s Public Safety Committee in June, highlighting numerous benefits — and potential pitfalls — to installing the system.
“Many people will cite a reduced crime rate as a pro for it, and I personally believe that they do,” he said. “… There are studies out there that have found very limited to no reduction in crime rate. There are others that have seen a significant reduction in crime rate.”
However, he said a survey of burglars revealed that some will avoid homes with cameras.
But law enforcement is just one application for which the city could benefit, the chief said. The city’s Public Works and Parks, Recreation and Forestry and Fire departments, as well as the Environmental Services Division, could all benefit from being able to monitor public spaces from a remote site.
“I support this 110%,” Councilor Craig Sutherland said. “I would have supported this a year ago, especially with the events going on in Tylor’s district and the vandalism. The municipal forest — you could see who’s going in with a truck full of mattresses.”
Alexander said a camera in the Wade Bowl area would have been helpful in identifying a suspect when officers got the call the next morning about vandalism the next morning.
After all, while it may be difficult to pinpoint a camera as the source of reduced crime, they can be vital to solving crimes, according to Alexander.
Alexander said public cameras in Duluth were used as part of the surveillance of the Last Place on Earth that helped shut down the synthetic drug trade in the Twin Ports.
In Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where the city implemented cameras in 2011 and expanded them in 2013, they no longer have vehicle pursuits because the system allows police to follow cars throughout the city without putting officers and the public in danger, and it permits the police department to determine what resources are needed when they are called out, Alexander said. He said it’s helped Eau Claire track homicide suspects and missing people, capture images of people jumping off bridges there, drug activity in parks — a problem Superior has — and to document crash scenes.
“The list goes on,” Alexander said. “I mean, they basically said they just don’t know how they would go back to policing without them … we’re actually behind the times for a city our size not to have some sort of camera system.”
If the city had had a public camera system in place in 2012 or 2017, it might have allowed police to solve two homicides in the city, the 2012 shooting of Toriano Dawen Cooper, 35, on North 12th Street, and the 2017 shooting of Kyle Androsky, 21, in the alley behind Third Base bar.
“Those are very significant crimes that I believe, if we had a camera system in place, it would have all us better outcomes because in both of those cases; we haven’t held anyone accountable,” Alexander said.
In addition to solving crime, Alexander said the system could help the city defend itself from false claims and lawsuits. After all, officers involved in shooting a man last year were wearing body cams that recorded the incident.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the city and police department would have been under much more criticism had we not had camera systems,” Alexander said.
“We saw all the benefits with body cams in getting actual facts,” Councilor Tylor Elm said.
“It not only takes money to make money,” Sutherland said. “It takes money to save money. You brought up a good statistic — $100,000 (in damage caused to vehicles) on a BB gun. If we could have caught them, it wouldn’t have cost $5,000. Cameras are 25% paid off on that in my opinion.”
Councilor Esther Dalbec said the city has gone through the gambit from windows being shot out to tires being slashed.
“I’m 100% with you Nick,” she said.
The Public Safety Committee, which met June 17, referred the matter to the Finance Committee, which will consider the proposal at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, July 11, in Room 204 of the Government Center.