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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

UChicago’s $3 Million Plan For Dozens Of South Side Surveillance Cameras Gets City Council Approval

City Council accepted $3 million from the university Monday. Ald. Sophia King said she'll use ward money on more cameras and security to complement the university's efforts.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) reacts as Ald. Sophia King (4th) speaks at a press conference at the corner of Harper Avenue and 53rd Street in Hyde Park on Nov. 10, 2021, a day after a midday shooting occurred at the corner.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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HYDE PARK — City Council accepted a $3 million grant from the University of Chicago this week that will put more than 100 new surveillance cameras in neighborhoods around the university’s South Side campus.

The council approved the ordinance Monday. The money will be routed to the Office of Public Safety Administration, the administrative agency for the police, fire and emergency management departments.

The city will use the funds to place about 110 POD cameras and license plate readers in communities around the Hyde Park campus, Deputy Budget Director Latoya Vaughn told City Council’s budget committee last week.

The cameras will be installed off UChicago’s Hyde Park campus — both within the UChicago Police Department’s jurisdiction and near property outside of it, like the Arts Incubator and L1 business accelerator.

The UChicago Police Department’s jurisdiction extends far beyond the university’s central campus, from 37th to 64th streets and from Cottage Grove Avenue to DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

City officials will finalize where the cameras are installed with input from university officials, the Chicago Police Department and local aldermen, university spokesperson Gerald McSwiggan said.

Chicago police would have “the primary responsibility” for monitoring the cameras, McSwiggan said.

The university wants to reach an agreement with the city to access them, as well. UChicago would in return provide Chicago police with access to its on-campus surveillance cameras, McSwiggan said.

Ald. Sophia King (4th) said Tuesday she plans to mirror UChicago’s plans throughout the rest of her ward. King intends to use ward money to add more surveillance outside campus police boundaries, complementing the university-funded cameras, she said.

King plans to add at least 10 more cameras alongside private security and violence interrupters in neighborhoods like Grand Boulevard and the South Loop, where campus police don’t have jurisdiction, she said.

“In places where I haven’t already put cameras, [I’m planning to] put cameras in strategic places in those communities, as well as add safety ambassadors,” King said.

Alderpeople spent more than $4.3 million meant for street infrastructure on new surveillance equipment in 2021 — more than quadruple their spending in 2020, according to The Daily Line.

King was one of 28 aldermen to do so last year. She spent about $214,000 of the ward’s $1.5 million in “menu money” on two POD cameras and six license plate readers.

King and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) have said additional surveillance is one response to a violent November day in Hyde Park last year.

UChicago student Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng was fatally shot in a robbery, a 31-year-old man was stabbed to death and gunfire erupted at lunch hour on 53rd Street that day.

After the killings and the gunfire, King joined Hairston in calling for more police presence and collaboration between local leaders and residents.

Chicago police added more officers to the 2nd District, which includes UChicago’s Hyde Park campus. Supt. David Brown said officers would take the controversial tactic of issuing more tickets for traffic violations, in an effort to stop violent “offenders.”

UChicago police increased its off-campus presence and launched a “strategic operations center” to monitor cameras, while the university boosted its private security patrols.

The university’s funding for new cameras will add to “the toolbox that we can use” to address violent crime in the area, Hairston said last week. Hairston spent about $214,000 in menu money on six POD cameras and six license plate readers last year.

King doesn’t mind the university’s intention to access cameras outside the jurisdiction of its campus police, as “more eyes on it will only help to deter crime,” she said.

The university’s police department is one of the largest private forces in the country and is not subject to the same transparency laws as municipal departments.

“I think cameras and more eyes on the street is a good thing,” she said. “Is it the panacea to end all violence? No. Is it a positive move? Yes, I think so.”

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