ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Another big project could soon be coming to Central Avenue and it has nothing to do with the Albuquerque Rapid Transit.
The city wants to add security cameras along the busy street to crack down on crime. However, not everyone is a fan of the idea.
While most people are focused on the traffic and construction along Central, crews with the global lighting company, Citelum, are looking up.
They’re working on the next big project to hit the historic Route 66 running through Albuquerque.
“It’s a smart way to try to make the corridor safer,” said Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry. The plan is to make the area safer with more lights and cameras.
Citelum won a bid with the city to re-light Albuquerque, converting 19,000 city-owned street lights to energy efficient LEDs.
Crews are now taking inventory of the current street light system.
“We look primarily at like, what type of light, what is the wattage, how much energy does it consume now?” JC Florenson, Business Development Director for Citelum, told KRQE News 13. “We also look at the condition of the light.”
Aside from better lighting, Citelum is also looking to add some extra eyes along Central.
Part of Mayor Berry’s lighting plan also calls for security cameras to be installed along Central.
The idea is for the cameras to change direction if need be to see different angles along Central, so if a crime is being committed, staff at the Albuquerque Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center can pull up a live feed.
If someone calls in an armed robbery for instance, APD staff can see what’s going on and relay information to officers out on the streets.
“Well that sends a strong message to folks that may want to do things that make you and I uncomfortable to ride a bus — that maybe that’s not the place to do those things,” Mayor Berry told KRQE News 13.
Central has been a magnet for criminals over the years. Just last month, a suspected arsonist torched the brand new Carlisle building. In September, the city condemned west Central apartments because of drugs and prostitution.
Then there’s the random crime that seems to plague Central. APD’s crime map for the past week tells part of the story.
City officials believe adding cameras will help more people feel safe.
“Also put a specific concentration on Central as a safety corridor, and I think there’s just a lot of new technology that could help us do that,” said Mayor Berry.
However, not everyone is convinced.
“Research shows that surveillance cameras of that nature, if they’re effective at all in deterring crime, it’s typically in very select locations like parking garages or parking lots,” said Peter Simonson, Executive Director for the ACLU New Mexico chapter.
Simonson said broad surveillance also sparks privacy concerns.
“Let’s face it, not all police officers operate with the best of intentions,” Simonson told KRQE News 13.
Simonson worries about a lack of checks and balances. He said the cameras could be used to keep tabs on people during protests, or they could simply drive crime down the street or around the corner to spots where there are no cameras.
“Where are our resources better placed? In some sophisticated technology? Or do we invest those resources in officers on the street who can engage with the community in that very corridor?” Simonson added.
Cities like New York and London have embraced widespread security cameras in the post 9-11 world. Live feeds can be even seen on the internet.
But city officials said that won’t be the case in Albuquerque. City staff said any security cameras on Central will feed video to a private, closed circuit broadcast only for police.
APD’s Real Time Crime Center also told KRQE News 13 police will not monitor Central’s live video feed in real time, unless there’s a call for service.
“It’s not you know, every place all the time,” said Mayor Berry. “It’s specific locations that have a tendency to attract crime from time to time.”
The city can already get video feeds from more than 350 security cameras around Albuquerque, and even more from private businesses.
APD also has seven mobile camera trailers it uses in places like public parks and popular shopping areas.
While Citelum approaches its final phase of transforming the city’s streetlights, the plan to add cameras is still just a plan, and one city council has to approve before it can take shape.
“We have the opportunity to get all the right inputs from different stakeholders,” said Florenson.
City council could approve the final phase of the street light project at the beginning of next year. That plan could include the Central cameras.
How many cameras and how much it would all cost, has not yet been determined.