Bowie councilman considers new view on crime -- Gazette.Net


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After vandals stacked chairs at the bottom of the Saddlebrook West community pool, Earnest White and other Bowie residents decided it was time to take a more vigilant approach and want to see surveillance cameras in their neighborhood.

“[With a video recording], it would be much easier to track down the culprit,” said White, who is president of the community’s homeowner association.

After speaking to White, other HOAs and city residents, Bowie City Councilman Todd Turner (At Large) is considering creating a city-funded program that would help Bowie communities install surveillance cameras or make other security improvements in neighborhoods.

While the city has been dealing with some trouble such as a trend of thefts from vehicles, the Saddlebrook West area doesn’t stand out as a trouble spot in the city, said Bowie Police Chief John Nesky.

“Nothing leaps to mind in terms of giant issues,” he said.

The program, which Turner is still drafting with plans to include in the upcoming fiscal 2014 budget, is modeled on existing city programs that give money to support the arts and education, Turner said. Similar to the existing programs, around $10,000 could be given out in grants for setting up security cameras or perhaps better lighting in neighborhoods, Turner said.

Cameras and better lighting could serve as a deterrent to criminals, Turner said.

“If I have a choice between this community or that community [with cameras], I’m most likely not going to want to be filmed, so I’ll go someplace else,” Turner said.

Cameras can be expensive to set up and maintain, officials said. Hyattsville has nine cameras spread across the 2.7-square-mile city, said Sgt. Chris Purvis, a Hyattsville police spokesman. Hyattsville first established its camera program, which is monitored by the city police, after getting a $200,000 grant to set them up in 2008 and spends about $27,000 annually in maintenance costs, Purvis said.

Neither the Bowie nor Prince George’s County police have an actively monitored system of cameras, police said. The Bowie police don’t have unmonitored surveillance cameras either.

Lt. Bill Alexander, a county police spokesman, said he didn’t know whether the county police had cameras that were not monitored, but setup for evidence gathering.

“Historically, most police departments that utilize these have very high concentrations of urban areas where one camera can cover a large number of people,” Alexander said. “You get more bang for your buck if you have a lot of people living on top of one another.”

Some sort of outside funding would be needed for Saddlebrook West to move forward with cameras, White said. Saddlebrook West has about 330 homes, in which each homeowner pays about $900 annually in association dues, White said. That money goes toward expenses such as property maintenance, landscaping and paying for amenities such as the pool and tennis courts, said Amanda Medford, association manager for ProCom, which maintains the community. Diverting money to pay for a camera program could be taxing for an HOA, White said.

“It may wholly be dependent on matching funds,” White said. “I don’t know if we could afford it on our own.”

amccombs@gazette.net