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Is closed circuit TV the answer to crime in Duluth?

By ALEX DE MARCO
DCN Correspondent

Public safety is a concern that nearly every city in the United States has in common. When asked what their main concerns are in downtown Duluth, residents and employees all echoed one response: crime. But when questioned about ways to decrease crime in the area, proposed solutions were limited.

“I don't know. I guess put more cops near the problem spots,? said Betty Tenkanen, manager of the Original Coney Island restaurant on Superior Street. “Everyone knows which parts are the worst.?

Tenkanen isn't the only downtown employee who is aware of particular areas that attract crime. In previous articles, business owners have commented on various kinds of crime in specific areas of downtown. Drugs are one concern in downtown Duluth, but property crimes show the highest figures in town.

The Duluth Police Department reports show that property crimes have increased over the last few years, and according to the FBI web site, Duluth had over four-thousand cases of property crimes in 2007; third in Minnesota, right after St. Paul and Minneapolis.

With the obvious need for a new approach to deterring crime, perhaps it is time for Duluth to look at what other cities have done in the past about the same problem.

In a 1998 article by Beth Wade entitled “Dealing with perception: Baltimore's cameras make citizens feel safer,? Wade writes about the installation of closed-circuit television cameras in a downtown neighborhood. Wade reported that crime--mainly property crimes--dropped ten percent the first year after the system was in place and thirty percent by the end of the second year.

“I don't think it's a bad idea,? said UMD senior Matt Foley, a resident of the downtown Duluth area. “If they set them up (cameras) in the right places I think it could help a lot. I've heard of other cities doing it, like I think L.A and a couple other places in California. I think it's worked for them.?

Foley is right. A 2004 article from the American City and Council states that within two months after police efforts were increased and cameras were installed near MacArthur Park in Los Angeles “...homicides had plunged by 45 percent, shootings dropped by 37 percent, robberies declined by 18 percent and total violent crimes decreased by 18 percent.?

Closed-circuit television may not be the ideal solution to Duluth's crime problem, but the addition of cameras in problem areas has proved to work in other communities in the past; it may be a reasonable option for our city as well.

“That's something maybe Duluth should start considering,? said Foley. “I don't know what else there is to do.?