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More police surveillance cameras coming to Syracuse's south side

Tom Magnarelli
A camera outside of Syracuse's City Hall.

The Syracuse Common Council has approved the installation of video surveillance cameras in a high crime area of the city. The councilor with the only dissenting vote is advocating for more community policing. 

The neighborhood around Midland and West Ostrander Avenues on Syracuse’s south side has been the location of many shootings and several homicides in recent years. Residents in the area have been requesting police cameras be put there.

Councilor-at-Large Jean Kessner voted against the cameras favoring instead to hire more police to be stationed in these neighborhoods. The cameras will be completely paid for using grant money and will cost about $150,000. 

“I feel very strongly that we don’t need to be watched,” Kessner said. “The question that we have never answered in any way that’s not some sort of bias is, are we safer? Have all of these cameras everyplace reduced crime? In neighborhoods, I disapprove of it. I think that we need to have police officers, we need to have community policing, we need to spend our money and our grant effort on acquiring those things.”

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said the surveillance cameras are effective in providing a record to assist police in their investigations.

Kessner is in favor of body cameras for police, but the Syracuse Police Department lost a federal grant to pay for them last year. Kessner says that was because of a bad application and the department should reapply.

Syracuse police already use about 90 surveillance cameras throughout the city.

Miner referenced a conversation she had with the residents of Washington Square Park on the city’s north side as an example of the support for these cameras.

“They said when the cameras went up, it cleaned up that neighborhood almost overnight,” Miner said. "People who were behaving inappropriately all of a sudden disappeared and they didn't come back to the neighborhood."

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.