Mayor de Blasio calls for cameras in public housing

| June 16, 2014

The murder of six-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto in a New York neighborhood has shocked the city.  Security cameras that could have helped identify the culprit were not installed due to a delay in bureaucracy. “I think it was a bad strategic decision by NYCHA to not simply put those cameras in place immediately,” Mayor de Blasio said. “The buck stops with me. And I’ve ordered all these cameras put in place this year.”

Gap between promise and reality

Although the New York City Housing Authority promises a “safe and secure” living environment in public housing, these housing projects see more crime. According to the New York Police Department, the rate of shooting incidents in public housing has risen more than 35 percent, and 20 percent of violent crimes happen here, although NYCHA houses just 5 percent of the city’s residents.

Public housing

Public housing in Brooklyn. From Payton Chung

Bureaucracy is speedier after murder

Just a day after Joshua’s murder, the city approved a camera for the lobby of the Boulevard Houses public development, where the incident took place. It only took city officials one week to approve $25 million in funding for security cameras in 49 projects. Sometimes, these contracts can be stalled for years.

Less than half of the 2,563 public housing buildings in New York have security cameras. According to the Housing Authority, it would cost $400- 600 million to put security cameras in all of them.

Although federal money was used to pay for cameras for many years, since 2003 that was not an option. Discretionary allocations by state and city officials are now the only means of paying for security cameras.

Other delaying factors

However, this is not the only hurdle. After funds come through, tenants and police officials must decide on the type of cameras to be used and their locations.

Boulevard’s tenants approved a plan for 15 cameras in March, although the money had been allocated last year. However, the housing agency only submitted the expense plan to the city Office of Management and Budget in May. Ironically, permission was granted a day after the murder happened.

Cameras are not the only answer

Crimes often happen in elevators even after cameras are installed, but at least they help identify suspects. Joshua’s murder happened in an elevator.

De Blasio announced other measures to prevent such incidents from happening. Neighborhood patrols, front door repair, after-school and recreation programs, and more co-ordination between the police and community are among them.

“We’ve got to remember that we have had a tragedy and that, in and of itself, hurts us deeply,” says de Blasio. “But what’s even worse is when you’ve had a tragedy and nothing changes.”

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Category: security, Surveillance

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