Board of Aldermen approves surveillance, K9 funding

The Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee endorsed two grant applications looking to strengthen New Haven police efforts on Tuesday night.

The committee unanimously approved a two-year, $50,000-per-year grant for New Haven’s camera surveillance system funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 2013 Port Security grant program. The Board also authorized the application and acceptance of a $12,275 grant from the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation for the Police Department’s K-9 Unit, the police’s canine group.

“[The cameras] are definitely a deterrent for crime,” said Margaret Targrove, deputy director of emergency management for New Haven. “It’s just the way of the future. It’s another tool in the police’s arsenal to fight crime. We’ve actually got to catch up compared to what other cities have.”

The two-year grant would pay for the maintenance, support and repairs of over 100 surveillance cameras in New Haven, which, without the contract, would be budgeted out of the city’s general fund. The cameras were originally installed in the 2009-’10 fiscal year using grant money from a variety of sources, Targrove said, although funding will be more difficult to procure this year as a result of the expiration of the cameras’ warranties.

The cameras are currently located in neighborhoods with high crime rates and are intended to reduce crime by allowing police officers to catch offenders and readily obtain evidence. Due to server memory capabilities, the cameras are able to store surveillance for only up to 15 days, after which the system automatically deletes data.

“The cameras are not meant to be watching anybody unless you’re doing something wrong,” Targrove said.

When the cameras were first installed, there were few concerns about privacy, as residents were more interested in the system as a crime deterrent, she added.

Ward 15 Alderman Ernie Santiago asked whether 15 days was enough for police to find the data helpful. Targrove answered that 15 days was long enough for police investigations to gather and use video footage if necessary, and that the program is limited by costs and server space.

The committee also approved the application for and acceptance of a $12,275 grant for food and supplies such as leashes, equipment, training and veterinary care for the canines in the police unit.

“[The dogs] do find things that we will never find, and that’s what makes it … very important to our police force or anywhere,” said Sandra Koorejian, who organizes grant applications for the police department.

Koorejian said that while these grants are typically for around $8,000, she requested more funding for the unit’s much-needed resources. The police department will hear whether they will be awarded the grant in late October.

“[Both grants] seem definitely necessary,” said Ward 29 Alderman Brian Wingate. He added that Targrove said the surveillance cameras are decreasing crime.

The Board unanimously approved both grant applications.

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