Cedar-Riverside set to get surveillance cameras, while the North Side waits

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Despite crime rates that don’t approach those of embattled Minneapolis North Side neighborhoods, Cedar-Riverside is likely to be the first neighborhood outside of Downtown to install crime-fighting surveillance cameras.

The City Council’s Ways and Means Committee on Monday approved a plan that would place cameras in strategic locations throughout the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood “as soon as practical to meet the safety concerns of the neighborhood.” But some council members questioned why the strategy, part of the successful SafeZone Collaboration that has helped reduce crime downtown by more than 20 percent over the past year, shouldn’t first be used in the city’s more troubled neighborhoods.

Council Member Gary Schiff voiced concern that he and other council members were not adequately informed about the funding sources for the program and wondered how Cedar-Riverside could get in line for this service before North Side neighborhoods. “This is painful, knowing how crime is up in North Minneapolis and Northeast Minneapolis, that we’re not approving funding for them here,” he said.

Essentially, Cedar-Riverside is getting the cameras because its neighborhood organization outworked every other neighborhood group in the city, explained Bill Beck of the city’s Business Information Systems department. Nearly a year ago, neighborhood representatives came to the city with a plan. “They’ve put together the funding to buy and install the cameras,” he said.

While this was laudable, said Council Member Sandra Colvin Roy, it still represents a failure by city staff to follow through on discussions begun last fall about prioritizing public safety needs citywide. “I’m really distressed by this process,” she said. “It is not a citywide look at how this is organized.”

And that may hinder the city’s ability to take advantage of $200,000 in state funding designed to expand the communications system connected to the surveillance cameras. The so-called “WorkSite” system allows SafeZone members to communicate with one another about crime information in the area. That funding, part of the state’s 2006 bonding bill, gives priority to neighborhoods with the highest per capita crime rate.

The committee voted 5–1 to approve the measure, with Colvin Roy the lone dissenting vote. The full council will take up the matter at its regular meeting on Friday.