Chester Housing Authority

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Surveillance cameras up and running in Chester's William Penn homes - The Delaware County Times By Colin Aimsworth

The Chester Housing Authority recently announced the William Penn Homes are now under complete camera surveillance. 

 The installation is the largest security camera project to date for one of its mid-20th century-built properties."Residents ask about having cameras installed every chance they get," CHA Housing Operations Director Norman Wise stated in a press release. "People feel more comfortable when they feel there are more cameras around.""The ultimate goal is to get 100 percent of our property under surveillance," CHA Executive Director Steven Fischer told the Times by phone. The majority of the authority's 14 properties have been built in the 21st century with cameras installed at the time of construction.

However, its two largest properties, the Ruth L. Bennett Homes and the William Penn Homes, date to the 1940s.The authority, whose funding comes from rents collected and federal subsidies, holds public hearings to get residents' input on its annual capital budget, totally approximately $1 million. The $235,000 camera installation was based on residents' feedback."When you're managing an aging housing stock, you'd like prioritize repair," said Fischer. "When you're in a city with the crime rate what it is, understandably some residents favor funds going to security."Since 2000, the authority has maintained its own police force with a 24-hour dispatch.

Fischer credits the work of CHA Police Chief Rodney O'Neill in keeping the streets patrolled at all hours and reducing crime on authority property. While Fischer believes adding more officers would be the best possible means to increase security, he and fellow authority officials see the cameras as a cost-effective, long-term investment in deterring crime."The cameras can't stop a crime but they can help you determine who the perpetrators of a crime are," O'Neill stated in a press release. "They protect property in the sense that if people see them or think they're on camera they may not commit a crime."The William Penn Homes, bounded by Franklin and Parker streets on the east and west, respectively, and Fifth and Union streets on the north and south, sit about a quarter-mile west on Fifth Street from the city's downtown. Opened in 1942, with a major rehabilitation in 1998, the homes were originally built to deal with a housing shortage as defensive workers swelled the city's population to an unofficial 80,000-plus during World War II.

The development is the authority's second largest to the 261-unit Ruth L. Bennett, built in 1940 for the same purpose.The Bennett Homes, which currently have partial camera coverage, are next in line for complete camera installation according to Fischer.