Security cameras voted down in split vote

Lucas Vance Staff Writer

January 15, 2014

RIDGEWAY — After discussing the possibility of setting up a camera surveillance system in downtown Ridgeway for the past three meetings, council has voted not to install cameras viewing the businesses on Palmer Street.

Council members Donald Prioleau, Belva Bush and Russ Brown voted against the proposal, while councilman Doug Porter and Mayor Charlene Herring voted in support of the camera system.

Prioleau noted that he would like to see council bring other parts of the police department up to par before installing a surveillance system, because the video footage would only help after the fact.

“I believe we should worry about hiring another police officer before installing cameras,” he explained. “We need to have someone in place who is trained to operate t and check the cameras. I just believe our police department has other needs besides camera surveillance.”

Herring responded by stating the camera system was not complicated and that the town is currently reviewing applicants for the police officer position.

Brown said he was not against installing a camera system, but he still had questions regarding the warranty and service fees that might be associated with the cameras.

He also questioned the need for surveillance in the downtown area by citing that in three years, there have only been 26 burglaries in Ridgeway, with only six occurring to the merchants downtown.

Prior to council’s vote, Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce’s chairwoman Denise Jones pleaded with council for the installation of surveillance on Palmer Street. Jones is also co-owner of the Cotton Yard Market in downtown.

She noted that over the last five years the businesses on Palmer Street have spent over $30,000 to promote their businesses and Ridgeway, as well as contributed over $10,000 to community organizations like Pig on the Ridge and Arts on the Ridge.

“As a merchant it is my utmost concern to operate a business in a safe and secure environment,” Jones told council. “Often when the merchant owners leave late at night it’d just a few women and we try to watch out for each other, but we request that you provide security cameras outside to not only protect us but our customers as well.”

Even though cameras would only be helpful identifying an offender after a crime has been committed, Porter pointed out that surveillance signs could possibly be helpful in deterring criminal activity.

Funding for the installation of the security cameras would have to come from a contingency fund because the purchase would be a one-time cost and not a recurring cost, which would come from the general fund. The lowest of three bids for the surveillance system was roughly $1,600.