How effective are surveillance cameras in reducing crime? To judge by results at Chester Housing Authority's William Penn Homes, extremely effective. The cameras were installed in March. Through September, every month has seen less reported crime compared to the same month last year, and in many months substantially less crime.
"The statistics we have compiled are relevant to the types of crimes affected by cameras," said CHA Police Chief Rodney O'Neill. "Obviously, the cameras can't see inside people's homes but for criminal and even nuisance activities outside they have already proven to be very valuable. "Crimes tracked included vandalism, theft, fights, shots fired, and crowds disbursed. The huge drop-off first appeared in April when there were only five incidents compared to 41 the previous April. In May there were again five compared to 47 the year before. Overall, from January through August there were 91 calls to police this year compared to 278 during the same period last year. That is a reduction of two thirds. "When we invested in the cameras, we calculated it would be worthwhile," said CHA Executive Director Steven Fischer. "But their presence has exceeded our expectations in the first year. People are reporting they feel much safer. "Tina Johnson, a resident of William Penn says the cameras have allowed her and her neighbors to have a greater feeling of security. "The cameras have brought this community back together," said Johnson, who also is a maintenance employee at CHA. "Now, when I look outside my door, I don't see people hanging right in front of my door or see a crowd hanging right behind my house. The crowd and crime have moved somewhere else. Where, I don’t know but it's not here. "Johnson says she would recommend these cameras to any community that has the same problem her community used to have. "People have stopped committing crime in the neighborhood because the cameras cover from the perimeter of the area inward," Johnson said. "The residents don't need the numbers to know crime has plummeted.