Town Credits Security Camera System for Drop in Crime

NEW PARIS, Ind. -- Eight security cameras the size of quarters placed atop a downtown tavern are being credited for a drop in crime.

The downtown security system runs nonstop and began taking pictures in October. The $7,000 system can scan all four streets in the immediate downtown business district, said David Parsons, New Paris Chamber of Commerce president.

"We put it up to deter crime, not to catch criminals," Gary Dausman, the chamber's vice president, told The Truth of Elkhart for a story Tuesday.

Two crimes have been reported in the downtown since New Paris installed the cameras, Dausman said. Last summer, a dozen incidents were reported in the area of the town some 25 miles southeast of South Bend, including a door smashed in at one business and multiple car break-ins.

But depending on where the cameras were pointed and what was being photographed, they might not comply with privacy laws, which do allow pictures to be taken in public places, said Fran Quigley, executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union.

If residents had concerns about the cameras, they should let the chamber or businesses know, he said.

"It's more likely to be reversed by community concern rather than a court case," Quigley said.

But some residents of the 1,000-person town said they supported using the cameras.

"As many times as I've had my stereo equipment ripped off, I think it's a good idea," resident Bryan Young said.

He did not mind the cameras watching him because it was the same as someone looking at him walk down the street, he said.

For New Paris Auto, business had become more manageable, said owner Larry Gill, who had five vehicle break-ins on his lot during the first two years of operation.

"I've had nothing since they put the cameras in last fall," Gill said. "The only people who wouldn't benefit from it are the ones doing things wrong."