Saturday, May 31, 2003

24-hour cameras watch Cleveland street for crime

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - A councilman credits video cameras on a city street with making the neighborhood safer for residents and store owners.

The 21 cameras are mounted on buildings along East 156th Street near Waterloo Road in the city's North Collinwood neighborhood. They record the street's activity 24 hours a day.

The neighborhood is the first in the city to use video cameras to help authorities catch and prosecute criminals, said Ward 11 Councilman Mike Polensek.

"The message is clear: If you want to be involved in illegal activity in this neighborhood, then you'd better smile and wave for the cameras," he said.

Polensek came up with the idea last year after noticing more drug activity on the street. He took $23,000 from his ward allocation of city money and bought the cameras. A private company installed them last month.

"The cameras are not a cure-all," he added. "They need to be coupled with law enforcement and citizens standing up and taking back their streets."

No one monitors the cameras' images constantly. But if police get a complaint about criminal activity, they can review tapes to see if the cameras caught someone.

In the last week, signs have been posted warning people that the cameras are watching. The law requires the signs in order for prosecutors to use the tapes in court.

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