Just a month after contemplating the creation of a new security district, with 24-hour manned patrol cars, residents of the Lower Garden District are now exploring another way to increase safety: a widespread installment of crime cameras.
Members of the Coliseum Square Neighborhood Association took a preliminary survey at their monthly meeting this week to see how many residents would be interested in one or both measures, in order to beef up security in the area.
About a dozen people — the majority of those in attendance at the meeting — indicated they’d like to have crime cameras installed around the neighborhood. Nine raised their hands when asked if they wanted private patrol, too.
“That’s a lot,” said Julie Simpson, the neighborhood association’s president.
Simpson said the response prompted her to plan on disseminating formal surveys to residents online in order to get more comprehensive feedback about which measure would be most welcome, or to see if the neighborhood association should pursue both.
The discussion, which was started last month, was renewed at Monday’s meeting, held just days after the release of a new study conducted by local crime analyst Jeff Asher. His report showed showed that the zip code encompassing the Lower Garden District has seen 32 armed robberies so far this year.
That ranks the area 7th out of 17 zip codes analyzed throughout the city. With 66 reported so far this year, the zip code encompassing the Bywater and part of the Lower 9th Ward saw the most armed robberies of any area.
Only three armed robberies have been reported so far in the 70124 area code, which includes Lakeview and some of Metairie.
Both discussions have been initiated by Ryan Kropog, a member of the neighborhood association who has volunteered to attend the local police district’s New Orleans Neighbors and Police Anti-Crime Council (NONPACC) meetings.
“With private patrol, there were a lot of moving parts with that discussion,” Kropog told neighbors Monday. “We’re trying to figure out what do to help the police. Another option is to do security cameras.”
Kropog suggested using Project NOLA, a crime camera company developed by criminologist Bryan Lagarde.
In that system, Lagarde helps install cameras on private property owned by people who volunteer the space. The volunteers pay for the cameras, the installation and for a monthly fee to keep the system working.
Lagarde loosely monitors the cameras, mostly by pulling up footage after a crime has been reported in the area, Kropog said. The cameras are positioned to face a public street or park. They connect via Internet to transmit feed to the Project NOLA control room.
“It’s more for a reactive type of situation,” Kropog said. “It’s not going to be as proactive as having patrol running around. But the big thing is cost for one, as cost for private patrol is a sticking point for a lot of people.”
Project NOLA will use surveillance cameras already purchased by homeowners. For those who don’t already have them, Lagarde’s company sells a self-install crime camera kit for about $350.
Professional installment runs about $150, Lagarde’s website says, and the cost to maintain the system is $10 a month.
Last month, Kropog said using two cars day and night to patrol just part of the Lower Garden District — an area bounded by St. Charles Avenue, Constance Street, Calliope Street and Jackson Avenue — would be roughly $438,000 a year, or $365 per person per year.
Kropog pointed to the Algiers Point Association as inspiration, saying he wanted the Coliseum Square Association to help defray costs for members.
The Algiers Point Association in 2013 offered $100 to residents who installed cameras to be monitored by Project NOLA. Less than a year later, the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association did the same, offering grants from a $3,500 budget surplus.
One neighbor wanted to take the Algiers Point model a step further, and put up signs indicating that the area was being watched.
The 6th District Persons Crimes Commander, Daniel Scanlan, warned that many criminals already knew how to look for crime cameras, and sometimes were able to dodge them altogether.
Regardless, he spoke highly of both crime cameras and private patrol, saying the former helps the police catch career criminals and prevents them from acting multiple times, and that the latter sometimes helps prevent crimes from occurring at all.
“It’s visibility. Criminals go where its easy,” Scanlan said. “If they know it’s where there’s a lot of cameras and private patrols, they’ll avoid that.”
Kropog said he would ask Lagarde from Project NOLA to speak to neighbors about his crime camera program during the association’s September meeting.