U. of C. sign

The University of Chicago's sign at Blackstone Avenue and the Midway Plaisance.

The University of Chicago will pay the city $3 million for more than 100 security cameras within its police department's patrol area, 37th to 64th streets and Cottage Grove to DuSable Lake Shore Drive, through an ordinance the City Council passed today.

The move comes as part of the broader security response to increasing violent crime in the neighborhood. In November, Alds. Sophia King (4th) and Leslie Hairston (5th) announced plans to marshal anti-crime resources to the area with the city and the U. of C. after a series of violent crimes in a 24-hour period; a fatal stabbing, the murder of a U. of C. student and a midday gunfight on 53rd Street.

The security cameras ordinance, introduced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot on April 27, transfers the money from U. of C. via a private grant to the city's Office of Public Safety Administration.

During the ordinance’s Budget Committee hearing, Block Club reported that city Deputy Budget Director Latoya Vaughn said the city will use the money to put around 110 police observation device (POD) cameras and license plate readers in and around Hyde Park. Vaughn said the cameras will be placed near properties the U. of C. owns, such as the Arts Block near the Garfield Green Line station.

In an interview following today’s City Council meeting, Hairston said the ordinance "is about following through on the conversations that we had with the community about what the community said they wanted to see about the police department and the U. of C. Police Department working together and connecting up the technology that we have."

Hairston said she would like the UCPD's patrol area to be extended to 67th or 71st streets. 

King, in an interview following the meeting, said she also wants to expand the presence of U. of C. campus safety ambassadors throughout the UCPD patrol area.The ambassadors stand at designated corners from afternoon through the morning and provide safety escorts, campus information and act as quick contacts for UCPD. 

"The one thing that I said is that they have to have the cameras and the ambassadors throughout their footprint," King said. "It couldn't just be right around Hyde Park and downtown. So they agreed to do that, and they already added the ambassadors, and the cameras are coming."

King said she is adding more POD cameras throughout the 4th Ward using her allocation of "menu" money for local infrastructural improvements.

She said the new surveillance investments would be "a nonstarter" if they are not used, appropriately, legally and with civil liberties in mind. But she noted the technologies' use in solving crime, giving the case of Keante McShan, the suspect accused of murdering Cove bartender Diego Damis in the course of a robbery, as an example. Prosecutors reportedly tracked him on February surveillance video walking near the scene of the crime in Kenwood, checking for unlocked cars on camera, before finding Damis' wallet at his house.

"It was technology that helped get to his offender," King said. She further suggested that visible surveillance equipment can also deter crime. 

University spokesman Gerald McSwiggan said the city will determine the cameras' locations in collaboration with the U. of C., the CPD and the local alderwomen. He said CPD will have the primary responsibility of monitoring the cameras and that their use will follow CPD guidelines.

The CPD reports that officers monitor the cameras at district stations and at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) Center; the cameras can be zoomed in and out and rotated. Camera locations are integrated in the 9-1-1 Computer Aided Dispatch system; when calls for service are made in areas near a camera, authorities in the CPD and OEMC can view the area in real time.

In related news, the new UCPD chief, Kyle Bowman, took command on April 4. The university recently launched a public safety strategic operations center, from which UCPD personnel can monitor intelligence in real time and pass it to officers in the field. Vice President for Safety and Security Eric Health said in a May 9 memo that the U. of C. wants to formalize information sharing with the city and CPD.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.