Niagara Falls Rescue Funding Focuses on Security Cameras | Local news

Can different methods of deploying safety cameras throughout the city help improve public safety at the falls?

Mayor Robert M. Restaino thinks so, and he plans to put federal money where he thinks on the subject.

As part of its $ 57.2 million spending plan from the American Rescue Plan, Restaino proposed that $ 500,000 be used to reimburse companies that buy and deploy security cameras.

The plan was included in a presentation the mayor made to city council on November 29, which was approved by council at a special meeting on December 20.

The council also approved funding for a specific contract for the bailout funds, which would provide body cameras, other equipment and training to Falls Police.

In his letter to council requesting approval of these spending, Restaino pointed to a social justice commission his administration created in 2020, which he said “called for building confidence and incorporating mandatory training, including a de-escalation training among other measures “.

“I think it will bring peace of mind,” said board chairman Kenny Tompkins, when asked about body cameras. “If I were a member of a minority community, I would be reassured to know that there is a permanent record” of meetings with the police.

“Since body cameras are pretty much a requirement and protection for both parties,” said councilor-elect Donta Myles, “I have no problem spending money on it if we have any. do not work or need to be replaced. “

He said he didn’t want the city to spend on additional cameras or more than needed if the existing cameras could meet the needs. Miles added that body cameras were probably not the top priority for federal dollars.

Regarding the installation of a security camera for businesses, Restaino said all details were not yet final, but his administration hired a consultant who determined the minimum cost of a reasonable camera to be $ 700.

The city recently solved two homicides using security cameras, the mayor said, and the plan would be another step forward in helping public safety.

While he was not yet sure whether upgrades or replacement of existing security cameras would be eligible for US bailout funding, Restaino said he would work to distribute the money to as many people as possible. possible business owners.

“If companies want to install more expensive cameras, the program will allow that,” Restaino said, “we expect the reimbursement to be capped at $ 700”.

Thomas Nelson, owner of Nelson’s Hair Studio at 1326 Portage Road in Falls, thinks the idea is good.

“It would be of great help,” he said. “It’s deterrence right there.”

His client, Greg Renford of Niagara Falls agreed. The two shared a story about how Renford’s car was recently hit outside the barber shop and a building owner’s security camera helped resolve the issue.

Nelson wanted to be sure that funds would not be distributed for the project until the cameras were actually installed.

“The city is going to have to get proof that the camera has been installed and made operational before reimbursements are made,” Restaino said. “The only other condition is that the owner will have to sign an agreement stating that they will cooperate with local law enforcement if we wish to gain access.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has long been concerned about these types of programs.

“Whether it’s a pedestrian, a driver or the boss of a local business, our participation in community life should not automatically expose us to widespread espionage. This invasive surveillance has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and others who face prejudice and discrimination. Requiring companies to forgo customer privacy and become a formal part of a government surveillance operation is downright Orwellian, ”said Beth Haroules, attorney for NYCLU.

“I love the idea” of the security cameras installed at the company, Tompkins said. “They could use this security like we could use this security. They will need to maintain their own camera. I really like this idea.

In addition to the business camera proposals, Restaino has also earmarked federal funds to be used to incorporate LED lighting placed throughout the city.

When the light poles are replaced, the “light distribution system” he called it, new additional cameras can be placed at various locations throughout the city.

Besides the public safety aspects of the business security camera program, Restaino said it also aims to generate economic development benefits.

“Although statistics show crime in the city is going down year over year,” said Restaino, “it’s a matter of perception. Whether people feel safer hanging out with our little ones companies, of course they will do more. “

“It’s a very good idea,” Renford said, while Nelson called it “a positive step.”

To engage a wide range of businesses, Restaino said he intended to enlist the help of business associations in the city to publicize the program.

“We can manage it through the city’s economic development department,” Restaino said, “or through an arm like the NFC Corporation. We’re still reviewing those details.”

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