Six digital surveillance cameras will be installed in the downtown area including Caroline Street and Broadway at a cost of $53,000, after approval Tuesday by the City Council.
City Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said the Police Department has been studying the installation of surveillance cameras for some time.
“We won’t have a person sitting in front of a monitor 24 hours a day,” Mathiesen said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
The cameras, however, will record all activity in places such as Caroline Street where there have been crime problems late at night and early in the morning, especially during the summer months. The city Public Works Department installed cameras in Congress park some years ago.
Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco said the police have asked to review the camera’s recordings to solve crimes committed in Congress Park.
The vote to enter into a contract with Digital Surveillance Solutions to develop the camera system and locate the six cameras downtown was unanimous. City officials want the cameras in operation by mid-summer.
At the start of Tuesday’s meeting several city residents told the council they are becoming concerned about their safety in wake of reports of strong-arm robberies and burglaries in the city.
“I’m nervous about walking in my neighborhood after sunset,” said Robin Dalton, who lives in the Caroline Street area.
She referred to a rise in violent incidents, including in late March in which a woman was robbed on Granger Avenue shortly after 10 p.m.. The woman was injured and her money taken. Police are still looking for the robber in the March 30 incident.
Dalton advocated the formation of a Safe Neighborhoods organization and more city police patrols on the streets at night.
Assistant Police Chief Gregory Veitch said he agreed with the comments about public safety.
“Police can do very little without public support. We all want Saratoga Springs to be a safe place,” Veitch said in his presentation on recent crime investigations. He said people, for example, need to lock their car doors and doors of their homes.
The city police have reduced some programs, such as the DARE program in the schools, so it can have a maximum number of patrols on city streets at all times, Veitch said. He added if one looks at the city’s crime rates, they compare very favorably with cities of Saratoga’s size in the region and state. He said the crime rates have been stable over the past five to 10 years.
Late last year, the department started releasing more police blotter and arrest information to the press and the media have reported more about police activity.
“I ask your patience. Come down to the police department and tell us your concerns,” Veitch said.
City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said she advocates using some of the city’s $1.8 million 2012 budget surplus for crime control and prevention.
Mathiesen agreed that the police need to bring staffing up to levels that existed before major staff reductions in 2008-09 because of budget constraints.
He said some police programs have been eliminated just so the department can keep its patrols on the streets at the highest possible numbers.
Mathiesen said the police department will hold a public forum on June 20 to discuss crime-related issues and solutions. He encouraged city residents to attend.
The council also voted to refer to the city Planning Board and Design Review Commission Turf Hotel’s request to rezone five acres on South Broadway, where the long-closed Weathervane Restaurant is located, so that a four-story, 109-room extended stay hotel can be built there. The boards will make recommendations on the rezoning request to the City Council.