College Park has added multiple security cameras and is installing 15 more on new utility poles mostly along the Trolley Trail to promote walkability and enhance safety measures across the city.
In an effort to promote walkability and enhance safety measures, College Park has added multiple security cameras on new utility poles, mostly along the Trolley Trail. The city is now installing 15 more.
Currently, the city has a contract with the University of Maryland Police Department to monitor 21 cameras around the Old Town neighborhood. City officials hope the additional cameras will ease safety concerns in the neighborhood and enable students to enjoy their free time in downtown College Park by preventing conflicts in residential areas.
The city will maintain the new cameras through a cybersecurity vendor — Hitachi. The cameras will not be actively monitored, but this university’s police department will have access to them, the city added.
While the new cameras will not be monitored, UMPD has also expanded its monitoring capabilities for existing cameras. In 2020, UMPD had 10 employees for camera monitoring due to staffing restraints from COVID-19. Now, there are 45 employees in the Security Operations Center where cameras are monitored.
The project is expected to cost more than $295,000.
Proponents of the new cameras cite its security benefits as the driving factor for its addition.
Senior hearing and speech science major Gabi Block lived in her sorority’s chapter house in Old Town during her sophomore year and has since lived in the Landmark apartment complex. Block said that she is not comfortable walking around the Old Town neighborhood at night if she is alone.
“When there’s not a lot of people out around after dark, I definitely do not feel as safe, even if it’s just a short walk,” Block said.
College Park mayor Fazlul Kabir has previously spoken in favor of installing the additional cameras. He highlighted the cameras’ impact on walkability in the neighborhood.
“We want to promote walkability and more people biking,” Kabir said. “We can only do that when people feel safe.”
District 3 council member Stuart Adams is also supportive of the new cameras, citing endorsements for the tools from prominent public safety officials.
The cameras were recommended by the city’s public safety director in coordination with the Prince George’s County Police Department and UMPD to help deter and resolve crimes, Adams said.
With the safety benefits, city officials also hope the additional cameras will allow students to spend their free time in the downtown area and reduce conflicts in residential areas.
Kabir said the city is taking a proactive approach to prevent conflict between the students and families in Old Town. In the long-term, Kabir said the goal is to encourage students to enjoy downtown nightlife by giving them safe and walkable access.
“[The community wants] students to enjoy partying in the evening, but right now the only partying option is partying in the backyard,” Kabir said.
Adams said he has noticed this balance between social events and calm residential neighborhoods is trending in the right direction.
The city has been making a renewed effort to prevent public consumption of alcohol, he added.
But others, including senior finance major Caroline Kennell, downplayed the potential impacts of the security cameras.
Kennell rents a room in the Old Town neighborhood and works at Cornerstone Grill and Loft. Kennell said she always tries to avoid walking home from work alone. When she walks her dog at night, Kennell said she will only go a short distance from her house.
Kennell is skeptical the cameras will change how comfortable she feels at night.
“The presence of cameras is nice to deter people, but I don’t feel I don’t think it makes me feel very comfortable,” Kennell said. “It’s just going to catch something that happens rather than prevent it.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated College Park expanded its security monitoring capabilities. UMPD expanded its security camera monitoring capabilities. This story has been updated.