UMPD leader asks College Park City Council for CCTV funding

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University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell asked the City of College Park to help fund live monitoring of 22 cameras to improve city safety during a presentation to City Council tuesday.

Two years ago, the city council voted to cut funding for live monitoring for fiscal year 2021 due to a lack of data to justify the cost of monitoring, but the council reinstated monitoring for a year to identify gatherings that have violated COVID-19 restrictions.

There has been no live monitoring off the University of Maryland campus since July 1, 2021.

Mitchell asked the city to reconsider funding cuts and fund live monitoring of 22 cameras, which would cost about $132,500.2 for fiscal year 2023, or $504 per camera per month.

“We’ve had so much success with live monitoring from city cameras,” Mitchell said.

Some city council members have expressed concern that the UMPD has not shown enough data to warrant live monitoringechoing their reasoning for voting against funding two years ago.

The board will consider including live monitoring in its ongoing fiscal 2023 budget discussions. The board discussed approving $200,000 in the fiscal year 2023 budget to fund an additional college police patrol, Mayor Patrick Wojahn said.

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Cameras located on campus are currently monitored live by personnel from the police department’s Security Operations Center.1 Off-campus cameras are not observed in real time, but are still recorded.

Carlo Colella, vice-president and administrative director of this universityalso attended the meeting and urged board members to support oversight funding.

“Supervised places make people feel safer and have a deterrent effect. They help detect suspicious activity in real time,” Colella said. “And when something happens, it allows us to react very quickly.”

Proposed camera locations for live monitoring are in “highest pedestrian areas” of the city, Colella said, in the city center and along the road leading to the College Park subway station.

“I have supported the cameras in the past”, said District 1 council member Fazlul Kabir. “I don’t think we’re actually seeing the data. And that was the gap we had between you and us. We asked for data, data, data.

Mitchell cited a case in the past where live monitoring allowed officers to be called in to stop a sexual assault in progress ‘just across the street’ of town hall.

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District 1 council member Kate Kennedy shared Kabir’s concerns, saying the data supporting the cameras is “very anecdotal”.

“What we need are more data points,” Kennedy said. “And some of that may be anecdotal, I understand that, but it also has to include real numbers that help us kind of understand what it is.”

Mitchell said the lack of data is partly due to many cameras not working properly.

Until recent months, 13 of the cameras were broken, according to City Manager Kenneth Young. Since then, all the cameras have been replaced by the city.

District 2 council member Llatetra Brown Esters said she would support funding for live monitoring.

“It’s critical to sort things out before there’s a tragic situation or things get out of control,” Esters said.

District 4 council member Maria Mackie also supported the funding, noting that the cameras are tools to deter crime in College Park.

“Our officers put their lives on the line every day,” Mackie said. “And we give them tools to do their job and do it better.”

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