COLUMN: Kirkwood needs surveillance

In a recent move to increase safety in the downtown community, the Bloomington Police Department has increased its presence in Peoples Park and instituted a zero-tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol and violence. Hiring new cadets and redoubling their efforts to corral crime downtown, BPD is also investing in new security cameras and trimmed hedges to help deter crime in the first place. Given the sizable homeless population in the Bloomington community, these kinds of measures are all the more important. With Kirkwood perceived as an affluent area, displays of public violence hurt Bloomington’s image, as well as IU’s. 

Frankly, this is a good move by Bloomington police. While I firmly believe the government gets too involved in people’s lives when it comes to drugs and alcohol, I think there’s enough public need to warrant this sort of increase in surveillance. 

One of the biggest concerns Bloomington officials expressed was violence erupting. While I don’t think public intoxication hurts people, public violence does. Innocent people can get caught up in fights and some of the perpetrators are homeless and unable to pay medical fees. That either pushes the burden onto the hospital or could prove to have long-term consequences for the homeless. Either option is undesirable.

Further, violence harms Bloomington and IU’s reputation. If touring students see brawls, they’re less inclined to come to IU. That hurts the local economy. This proves there’s enough of a reason for the police to step up their presence. 

I do, however, disagree with the means by which they’re increasing this presence. Their initiative focuses on putting more officers on the streets to patrol the area. While this is undoubtedly effective, it only works while the officers are nearby. Should the police be out of sight, violence once again has the potential to erupt. 

The focus should instead go on to infrastructure such as cameras. While surveillance cameras can prove expensive, they’re excellent deterrents. They record 24/7. As a result, they’re capable of demonstrating Bloomington is in control of the situation. Additionally, paying officers is a repeat expenditure. Salaries have to be paid each year, whereas a camera is an smaller investment that can act as a deterrent for years. However, patrols do have a certain charm to them the city of Bloomington likely appreciates. 

Officers provide a sense of security cameras don’t. For much of the privileged white population, seeing a policeman or policewoman is reassuring things are going to be OK. While cameras might prove to be more effective, this security theater quells constituent concerns in a very visible way, as opposed to the subtly of surveillance cameras. 

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