Redlands, Calif., plans surveillance project

Apr. 14--REDLANDS -- Police Chief Jim Bueermann said Tuesday that the Police Department is still laying the groundwork on a plan to install several new surveillance cameras in the city.

"I'm certainly hoping that we're able to begin installation before we get into the summer," he said.

The Police Department has yet to complete paperwork that would allow camera suppliers to make a deal with the city.

In early March, the City Council voted 4-1 to spend as much as $550,000 on a plan to install 30 new cameras.

As much as $252,400 could come from Redevelopment Agency funds. The balance would be obtained from grant revenues.

The project would focus the cameras on misdeeds committed Downtown, which is part of the Redlands Redevelopment Area.

Most of the new cameras -- 24 -- would be located within the area.

The use of redevelopment dollars for the cameras is based on the argument that Downtown merchants will be more successful if there is a sense that police have an eye on the area.

"The perception of safety is good for shopping," said Kathie Thurston, Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Councilman Jerry Bean was the only member last month to cast a vote in opposition to the plan. He contended that redevelopment money should not be used to fund a Police Department project.

Bueermann said the cameras will be able to provide live images to police dispatchers.

Police already use surveillance

cameras in various locations, such as Downtown, the Redlands Bowl and Mariposa Elementary School, which is in the southeastern part of the city.

Some of the city's current cameras allow dispatchers to send a verbal warning to wrongdoers that their actions are being electronically viewed.

People often bolt when they hear that they are being caught on Redlands-vision, Bueermann said.

"It gives dispatchers the ability to reach beyond the dispatchers' wall," he said. "Watching this occur is quite humorous."

In addition to the camera project, Bueermann said the Police Department plans to move its dispatchers from their cramped, closet-like room in the Police Station on Brookside Avenue to a roomier spot in the same building.

Bueermann said he foresees a dispatch facility that resembles a military-operations center, where real-time surveillance images could be viewed on a large screen while dispatchers radio information to patrol officers.

Police administrators intend to move dispatchers to the city's old Council Chambers, which is in the Police Station.

However, that room was judged unsafe in November when an engineer discovered structural damage.

Bueermann said construction to make that room safe for people to work there could begin around the end of the year.

The project could cost about $1 million. Bueermann plans to use federal grants to pay for the work.

Copyright (c) 2008, San Bernardino County Sun, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.