City Council approves cameras for Cedar-Riverside

Sara Schweid

Cedar-Riverside will be the first Minneapolis neighborhood outside of downtown to have security cameras.

The Minneapolis City Council voted 10-to-1 Friday to allow the neighborhood to move forward with its plan to install eight security cameras along the business district near the intersection of Cedar and Riverside avenues.

Ward 11 council member Scott Benson was the sole dissenter.

The proposal was supposed to be voted on at the June 30 council meeting, but was postponed by Ward 2 council member Cam Gordon, who represents the neighborhood.

Gordon said he chose to postpone the proposal to make some changes to increase the likelihood of passage.

“The only real change that we made was to add a directive to city staff to develop a process for future decisions, so there would be some criteria and some selection process,” Gordon said.

Some council members, according to Gordon, thought their neighborhoods were uninformed of the possibility of applying for money for security cameras.

There is money in the city’s budget for safety projects, and the City Council passed a plan giving precedence to neighborhoods that raised money to contribute to the cost of the cameras, Gordon said.

Jeremy Hanson, communications director for Mayor R.T. Rybak said the mayor decided to put additional funding for security cameras in the 2006 budget after the success of the downtown SafeZone project.

Since it began in January 2005, the project – which consists of 30 security cameras in the 30-block downtown business district – has contributed to a 20 percent decrease in robbery, said Becky Boland, executive director of the SafeZone Collaborative.

The Cedar-Riverside cameras will be able to connect to the existing infrastructure that is in place for the downtown SafeZone project because both are in the 1st police precinct, Boland said.

The total cost for the eight proposed cameras is about $239,000, Gordon said. The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and business associations have raised about $65,000 and are asking the city to commit the additional $174,000, he said.

Benson voted against the proposal because he said he did not believe this was a fair process of which all neighborhoods were informed.

“I will not be railroaded to voting for a project that did not go through a fair, open and competitive process,” Benson said at the meeting.

Benson also expressed concern that the crime-filled north side was not the first neighborhood to receive cameras.

Ward 5 council member Don Samuels, who represents north Minneapolis, said he appreciated Benson’s concern but acknowledged that his neighborhoods are not technologically prepared to install cameras. He said that he did not want another neighborhood to miss this opportunity simply because of concern for the north side neighborhoods.

“What I do not want to happen is for Cedar-Riverside not to get this because of the reprioritization of West Broadway,” he said.

Todd Smith owns the Nomad World Pub on Cedar Avenue. He said the neighborhood should not be punished because they are not as crime-filled as other areas of the city.

“Just because we decided to organize Ö and other neighborhoods didn’t, we shouldn’t be punished for it,” Smith said.

Smith said he thinks the cameras will be a good tool because the police will be able to witness crimes in progress and respond more quickly.

Rob Allen, deputy police chief for the Minneapolis Police Department, agreed.

“Cameras are another tool we have so we can see crime in progress and hopefully react to it before people have left and decided not to report it,” he said.

Allen said cameras have been very effective in downtown and also would be effective in Cedar-Riverside.

“Cedar-Riverside has very high population density and the criminal activity that’s been occurring there happens in a relatively small area where cameras will be effective,” Allen said.

Gordon said while a majority of his Cedar-Riverside constituents are pleased about the cameras, some are not comfortable with the idea.

He said that some of the people who live in the second-story apartments above businesses around Cedar and Riverside avenues are concerned about having a security camera right outside their windows.

Gordon said now that the proposal has passed the City Council, the neighborhood will be able to begin the installation process, which he said could take as long as three to four months.

Smith said he thinks the neighborhood deserves the cameras.

“This neighborhood has been a fractionalized neighborhood for a long time,” he said. “This is something that the whole neighborhood came together on and we worked really hard at.”