Ypsilanti Township considering expanding public surveillance camera program
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Ypsilanti Township is considering expanding a public security camera program it piloted in the West Willow neighborhood.
Recent issues in the Harris Park area led township staff to ask the Board of Trustees to consider approving placing cameras in the area. The board discussed the issue at its Tuesday night meeting, and Jeff Allen, the township's director of residential services, will bring a formal proposal to the November meeting.
Harris Park is located between South Harris Road and Ford Boulevard. It lies just south of East Michigan Avenue, and Harris Road ends at train tracks between the park and Michigan Avenue.
There is no access to Michigan Avenue, and Allen said a small footpath leads from Michigan Avenue into a baseball diamond and park area used by the Ypsilanti National Little League teams. The area sees very little through traffic because of the lack of access from Michigan Avenue, and has become a small haven for illegal activity.
Mike Radzik, director of the township's office of community standards, said little league officials have regularly had to comb the field and clean up drug paraphernalia, hypodermic needles, used condoms and bottles.
People are reported to have been found sleeping in dugouts and in the bleachers, graffiti has become an issue, and scrap metal and wiring was recently stolen from the park.
“Much of the problem has been attributed to pedestrian traffic over the railroad tracks to and from East Michigan Avenue,” Radzik said. “Jeff (Allen) has been authorized to come back to the board at the November meeting with a lighting and camera proposal. It is believed that lighting would help deter these issues, and video surveillance would help police identify and arrest offenders.”
In a memo to the township, Allen said he would like to see two to three cameras in the park, which would be the same model as those used in West Willow. The images would be sent to the existing server that collects images in the Washtenaw County Sheriff Department’s township station.
The cameras start recording still images upon detecting motion in an area and transmit full color images back to a central computer. The images are selectively downloaded by the Sheriff's Department for investigative purposes. Images not downloaded are over-written by the device every four to five days, depending on the volume of activity, Radzik said.
The cameras don’t provide a live stream, and no one regularly monitors the recordings. Instead, police could preview and download the images from a local computer at the police station as needed, Radzik said. Multiple deputies are trained in using the equipment.
The cameras only point into public spaces and are not directed at any homes.
Police officials previously said images from the cameras have been utilized and are an effective investigative tool, while West Willow residents have reported that the cameras are driving activity from their neighborhood.
The total cost for two cameras including hardware and cell service would be $9,224, while the total for three cameras would be $13, 836.