Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Cameras provide sense of security at Roosevelt Center

Greenbelt police say cameras have assisted in investigations

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Greenbelt resident Jim Cowan, 65, said he has noticed less rambunctious behavior at the Roosevelt Center, a commercial plaza in Greenbelt, since the installation of four surveillance cameras in September 2007.

‘‘I think the atmosphere at the Roosevelt Center has gotten a lot better [with the cameras]. Before the cameras, I think the center had deteriorated, particularly the offensive language [from youth and young adults],” Cowan said.

The cameras, which cost $39,518, were activated to monitor residents’ behavior and prevent crime in the commercial plaza.

Centerway Mini Market owner Kyung Bai said she has seen a significant change in people’s activity at the center since the cameras were installed.

‘‘It’s changed a lot. Not many people are hanging around anymore, the older people feel safer. Right now [seniors] are more comfortable to shop here,” Bai, 53, said. ‘‘After a month, everybody knew the cameras were here.”

However, some residents are not convinced the installation of the cameras has helped change Roosevelt Center’s image.

‘‘I can’t really tell if there has been a difference [in crime] because we’re in the colder months and not a lot of people are hanging out anyway,” said Eva Garin, a Greenbelt resident, who was shopping Monday evening. ‘‘I think this is only temporary.”

But Capt. Thomas Kemp, Greenbelt’s special operations commander, said the surveillance system has assisted in several investigations.

In 2007, Greenbelt Center, one of the four sectors Greenbelt police patrols, 195 crimes were committed - the lowest total in the city. In the Springhill Lake area, 549 crimes - the highest city mark - were reported. A total of 1,363 crimes occurred in the city in 2007. Police could not break down the number of crimes that occurred specifically in the center.

However, Kemp said the primary location of criminal activity in Old Greenbelt is at Roosevelt Center.

‘‘Since the cameras at the Roosevelt Center, I have been hearing people say they feel secure in the center and the environment is more pleasant,” City Councilwoman Leta Mach said. ‘‘I personally have never felt unsafe in the center but I’m glad to hear for some people the cameras make them feel safer.”

Kim Kash, owner of Yoga OM Studios, said Roosevelt Center’s positive change can be attributed to a combination of things.

‘‘At the time we got the cameras, there was a heavy police presence at the center and the neighborhood watch group was out and about,” said Kash, 38. ‘‘All that came together at one time, it’s hard to say which played a bigger role but I have noticed a difference.”

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