New London to add more downtown public safety kiosks and police cameras
New London ― The city will soon add several new public safety kiosks and security cameras to downtown locations, a move officials said will serve as crime deterrents and help dispel any “unwarranted fears” keeping skittish visitors away.
The City Council on Tuesday approved using $141,000 in American Rescue Act Plan funding to purchase seven new police security cameras and five “blue light” call boxes destined to be added to downtown areas.
In an undated memo written in support of the expenditures, New London Police Department Chief Brian Wright said the kiosks will provide an “additional layer of security and reassurance” to the public, while the cameras will give officers another investigative tool.
“By implementing these measures, we are not only addressing actual safety concerns but also actively working to dispel any unwarranted fears that may deter individuals from fully engaging with our vibrant downtown community,” Wright wrote.
Local business owners for years have pushed for more police patrols downtown as an antidote to long-standing public safety issues ranging from nuisance problems with panhandlers and shoplifters to more serious crimes.
As recently as Dec. 3, police were investigating a downtown incident in which two unoccupied vehicles were struck by gunfire. In August, a 24-year-old man was injured after being shot on Bank Street. Bullets from that summer shooting also damaged the front window of Mambo Bar & Restaurant.
Felix Reyes, director of the Office of Development & Planning, which is partnering with the police department on the Blue Light Project, said new kiosks will be placed at five downtown locations: outside the public library, at Parade Plaza, on the waterfront and at two parking lots in the area of Golden Street and Eugene O’Neill Drive.
Currently, there are only three call-box towers located on city property, all inside the marina surface parking lot off Pequot Avenue. The blue light-topped towers are equipped with a button and speaker that directly connect callers to police dispatchers.
Reyes said the call boxes, widely used on college campuses and other locations where large groups of people converge, will show the installation areas are “safe spaces.”
A project outline also calls for adding seven street cameras on Bank Street, though exact locations were not listed. The council nearly a year ago approved spending $366,423 to install 34 cameras at several New London road intersections and parks.
Reyes said the cameras will enable officers to “quickly solve crimes” if such incidents are captured on the feeds. He said the technology is as important as the broadband, utility and other infrastructure components already prevalent in many urban municipalities.
“These devices aren’t taking the place of officers; it’s not a bait-and-switch,” he said. “It’s providing more support to the department ― a force-multiplier ― while also creating a supportive environment for our small businesses and residents.”
In his support letter, Wright said the introduction of more kiosks and cameras will be complemented by a more intense downtown police presence during high-traffic times.
Several council members voiced support for the project, though Councilor Jefferey Hart, the sole “nay” vote against the project, raised privacy concerns including the proliferation of what he called an already “intense camera culture.”
Reyes said the kiosks and cameras are slated to be installed by April or May.
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