CCTV systems installed in Tennessee housing authority complexes

Bristol residents express mixed emotions over new surveillance system


Sep. 26--BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Jerri Hall hasn't worried about her safety during the year she's lived at Fort Shelby Towers, but she's still happy to see security cameras being installed.

On Wednesday afternoon, she pushed her wheelchair past technicians from Tele-Optics of Nashville, as they continued installing 22 cameras and the hardware to operate them at the 10-story residential housing complex.

The Bristol Tennessee Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board recently approved spending about $185,000 to install the surveillance system at Fort Shelby and Edgemont Towers, another residential complex.

The cameras come seven months after gunman Rusty "Bo" Rumley killed four people at Edgemont Towers, before taking his own life in Carter County. Tenn.

Hall said she likes the cameras "for security reasons."

Terry Bond, who has lived at Fort Shelby for three years, agreed.

"My concern is you have people coming in here who don't belong here and causing trouble," Bond said. "I like them [cameras] for safety."

Not every resident, however, shares their enthusiasm, according to Steve Scyphers, the housing authority's executive director.

"It's very mixed. Probably 50 percent of our residents are against them," Scyphers said. "There is a lot of concern about privacy issues."

"We had the cameras on our five-year wish list. They were approved for 2007, but behind some elevator renovations and sewer line improvements we have planned at Edgemont Towers," Scyphers said. "After the shootings, we moved them up."

The new system will replace the modest cameras currently in place in the lobby of each building.

"We'll continue to use those units. We'll just move them to an area where we're having a problem," Scyphers said.

Because the new cameras won't be monitored on a full-time basis, they may not have affected the outcome of the Feb. 27 murders.

"I think only God and the shooter could know that," Scyphers said when asked if they would have made a difference. "We hope the cameras will help deter all kinds of things. People who are bent on doing something criminal are probably going to do it regardless."

While serious crime isn't a problem at the facilities, Scyphers said, those at the authority expect to catch acts of vandalism, thefts, domestic disputes and trespassing.

Fort Shelby's 22 high-resolution digital cameras -- and the 28 scheduled to be installed at Edgemont Towers -- will record around the clock and feed video images to computer hard drives that can store them for as long as three months, according to Chris Wilson of Tele-Optics.

The units are weatherproof and vandal-resistant.

"The images can be viewed from anywhere in the world by someone with a computer who has access to the system," Wilson said.

At this point, only Scyphers and the building managers will have access.

"We'll have four [cameras] on the exterior of Fort Shelby and 10 on the exterior of Edgemont Towers, because there are more entrances and exits and more parking there," Scyphers said.

Cameras will be placed in the lobby of each building and throughout the ground floor areas. One camera on each floor will face the elevator so there will be a record of anyone getting on or off.

"We can zoom in to get faces, license plates or other information the Police Department might want," Scyphers said.

The work at Fort Shelby is expected to be finished next week and the entire installation should be done by the end of October, Scyphers said.

In addition to the surveillance system, officials plan to install a gate at the Fort Shelby entrance and expand its electronic card key system.

dmcgee@bristolnews.com| (276) 645-2532

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