In September, Winston-Salem city leaders made a $900,000 decision to expand the city’s public safety security camera platform with the Winston-Salem-based surveillance company Call24 Security. 

An estimated 291 cameras will be placed at 33 sites around the city, with a focus around the city’s community centers, parks and municipal buildings and facilities. All video from these cameras will be fed into the Winston-Salem Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center. City staff currently manage more than 500 security cameras.

In a recent email to TCB, the city’s Chief Information Officer Tom Kureczka stated that they expect that all cameras will be installed by the spring of 2025. However, installations will occur bit by bit; due to reasons such as staff and vendor availability, they can’t start installing cameras at all 33 sites all at once.

Kureczka said that city staff recently met with Recreation and Parks staff and WSPD’s assistant chiefs to discuss the installations. These meetings helped define their priorities and how they plan to proceed, Kureczka wrote. 

“Some of this is related to other projects underway, such as expansions to our fiber network and the opportunities presented for wireless broadband with our new equipment now on the rooftop of the Truliant Tower,” Kureczka wrote.

Kureczka said that they recently added another IT project leader to the program because up until October, there had been only one person leading the work on the installations.

While the city’s contract with Call24 Security offers locked-in pricing, the city isn’t obligated to purchase all equipment from Call24 Security. Kureczka noted that they completed a pricing proposal process for some of their sites to obtain pricing from Call24 Security along with a few other local providers. 

“We wanted to make sure that Call24 Security pricing was our best option,” Kureczka wrote, adding that the results showed that they “indeed are.”

“We also now have a stronger relationship with the other vendors should we hit supply-chain issues with Call24 Security,” Kureczka continued.

Why is the city buying more cameras?

Kureczka noted that they have identified a few additional sites where cameras could be installed, adding that with these they have to “consider available funding and coordination with those sites approved by City Council.” 

There haven’t been any changes to the number of cameras at any individual sites, Kureczka wrote. However, as they begin designing each site, there could be some changes. They are starting to plan and schedule on-site walkthroughs for these additional sites with Call24 Security, WSPD and Recreation & Parks staff.

Right now the city is working on purchasing equipment for three recreation centers — Miller Park, Georgia E. Taylor and Old Town. Kureczka stated that they intend to get those installations started between December and early January, depending on equipment delivery time.

According to crime mapping data, within the last three months there have been 12 assaults within half a mile of Miller Recreation Center, as well as three burglaries, one motor vehicle theft, three acts of vandalism and one firearm discharged.

During the same timeframe, there were two burglaries, one assault and one motor vehicle theft within a quarter of a mile from Georgia E. Taylor Recreation Center.

Results from a 2009 study showed that surveillance cameras caused a 16 percent decrease in crime in experimental areas when compared to control areas. Surveillance cameras were particularly effective at deterring crime in car parks, leading to a 51 percent decrease. In most other public settings such as city and town centers and in public housing communities, surveillance cameras led to only a seven percent decrease in crime. 

The American Civil Liberties Union aired concerns that the growing presence of public cameras will bring “subtle but profound changes” to the character of public spaces.

“When citizens are being watched by the authorities — or aware they might be watched at any time — they are more self-conscious and less free-wheeling,” the article states.

City residents have taken issue with the recent camera additions. 

During the Sept. 18 city council meeting whenthey were approved, resident Ben Gryder took the stand during the public comment period. Instead of spending more money on the “extensive and endless project,” Gryder encouraged councilmembers to “reallocate its bloated public safety budget into more community care-oriented programs.”

Gryder continued, “If mounted on community centers, like this resolution outlined, surveillance cameras risk revealing a person’s familial, political, professional, religious and sexual associations — which are very much privacies of life.”

“Creating a heavily-surveyed city with [an] underserved population should not be where our value lies,” Gryder said.

However, an Urban Institute article states that these camera systems can be a cost-effective way to deter, document and reduce crime. The Urban Institute has also published a guidebook for law enforcement and their municipal partners on how to implement and employ public surveillance systems “in a manner that will have the greatest impact on public safety.”

“Cameras should avoid or mask inappropriate views of private areas, such as yards and second-story windows. Law enforcement agencies should also document and publicize policies governing how surveillance cameras can be used and what the disciplinary consequences are for misuse,” the article states.

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