The City of College Park may reintroduce funding for city surveillance cameras monitored by University of Maryland police after Police Chief David Mitchell raised concerns that the city is less safe without supervision.
Employees of the police department’s Security Operations Center are responsible for monitoring cameras on the campus of this university. In the spring of 2020, the College Park City Council decided to cut funding for off-campus cameras. The change took effect on July 1, 2021.
Mitchell, who said he thinks off-campus surveillance is critical to safety, visited the board at a meeting on April 5 and advocated for off-campus camera surveillance. The 22 cameras are already installed and currently collecting images for storage, but they are not monitored in real time.
The cameras have been useful in preventing crime because those monitoring the cameras have been able to call the police to intervene in active situations, he said.
“We’ve had so much success with live monitoring from city cameras as well as cameras that are on campus,” Mitchell said during the meeting.
In a proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 that begins July 14, the city includes a payment of $145,000 that will cover the cost of 22 cameras. The money for this expense comes from College Park’s $22 million COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund provided by the federal government under the American Rescue Plan Act.
[UMPD chief asks College Park City Council for surveillance camera funding]
“We all want to make sure College Park is a safe place,” said District 3 councilman Stuart Adams. “I think it really is a safe place to live, and we want to keep it that way.”
Adams added that he supports the decision to pay for the use of the cameras next year because the city has already made the “big investment” to install the technology.
Some board members expressed concern that the University of Maryland police had not passed them enough data to justify the cost of live monitoring.
District 1 council member Kate Kennedy said she’s unsure whether the city should continue to fund the cameras once it doesn’t have the financial cushion provided by pandemic relief money. .
“Right now it’s okay,” Kennedy said. “I’m just not convinced that this surveillance is the best use of the money.”
Kennedy also hopes to see more quantitative data reflecting the camera’s effectiveness in stopping crime, she said.
District 4 council member Maria Mackie said she has always supported the use of surveillance cameras and was okay with giving the police department financial support to use the cameras as a “tool to keep the city safe.
“I think it’s going to be a really good year for collecting data,” Mackie said. “Seems very affordable to me and worth trying next year and reviewing.”