Elizabeth City, Va., to Install Municipal Surveillance Cameras

City looking to use approximately 20 cameras to monitor crime-prone areas


ELIZABETH CITY -- Surveillance cameras - common at gas stations, department stores, intersections and government buildings - could be coming to a neighborhood near you.

The Elizabeth City Police Department is negotiating with a security company to install about 20 cameras around the city, primarily to help monitor some of the most troubled neighborhoods.

The idea came to the City Council about a year ago, when a community watch group suggested installing cameras in its neighborhood to deter crim e.

In March, William Anderson, then the city's police chief, presented a feasibility study to the City Council. He said that the Sawyertown surveillance project would require 40 cameras at a cost of about $200,000, plus installation and software, bringing the total to about $250,000, according to the March 13, 2006, meeting minutes.

Officers would also have to be trained to use the equipment, further increasing the price, and the officers would have to be near the neighborhoods to take any action.

Anderson said there were also some concerns about violation of residents' Fourth Amendment rights.

Anderson opposed the plan, saying the city would benefit instead from the addition of two new drug agent s.

However, the City Council voted to scale down the proposal and have the staff come back with plans for a pilot program.

Councilwoman Jean Baker was the only one to vote against the motion, preferring to put more police officers on the street.

Throughout last year, there were several updates to the City Council about scaling the down the project .

A few months ago, the package was sent out for bids. Last week, the staff presented three submitted bids to the City Council.

One bid was less than the projected $200,000 cost but was disqualified for not meeting the specifications outlined in the request for proposals .

The next bid was nearly $262,000, and the staff received permission from the council to negotiate with the company and come back for budget consideration.

If approved by the Council, Capt. Frank Koch said, the new cameras could be posted in the Sawyertown, Pennsylvania Avenue and Hugh Cale neighborhoods by early summer.

"This is going to be the backbone of the system," he said.

Additionally, Koch said, he would like to post cameras at Waterfront Park and Main Street.

The cameras would be posted on utility poles, would be able to change direction and sweep the area, and be easily moved to poles in different neighborhoods.

"These are really designed for street-level drug dealers," Koch said.

Police officers will be able to monitor the live camera feeds from the police station or from laptops in patrol cars.

At last week's City Council meeting, there was some confusion about the project's approv al.

"I didn't think we had agreed to put these online," Baker said.

City Manager Rich Olson and Councilwoman Anita Hummer initially said the city's electric budget included the $200,000 for the project.

"I don't remember voting for that amount," said Councilman Michael Brooks.

Later in the week, it was learned that council members had not approved any money for the project because they were waiting for an estimate.

Olson said Friday that the council's action in March amounted to unfunded approval for the project.

Koch said he is meeting with the security company on Wednesday and could have a presentation for the council in the next few weeks.

n\Reach Lauren King at (252) 338-2413 or .

Police officers will be able to monitor the live camera feeds from the police station or from laptops in patrol cars. where

The cameras could be posted in the Sawyertown, Pennsylvania Avenue and Hugh Cale neighborhoods by summer.