The popular Summer Sizzle league, in which a lot of Midtown kids participate, is in a tough spot this year moneywise, as it has seen its CDBG money drop almost $7,000. Alderwoman Shirley Whitlock proposed that the city buy two new surveillance cameras instead of three, and shift the money saved to the basketball league, so it could continue to offer grants and scholarships to participants and pay its refs a little something for their trouble. (I hope the league is all right - there's a fundraiser this Saturday afternoon for it down at the Rondout Gardens court which I hope a lot of people attend.)
The debate among alderpersons then became one of what would do more to fight crime - involving youth in a program which would, presumably, prevent them from setting off on the wrong path in life, or using technological means to detect and prosecute those who've already walked pretty far down that aforementioned wrong path. This brings up the whole philosophical question of which (if one had to make a choice) is preferable: preventative or remedial action.
In health care, the answer is quite clear. Preventative medicine does much more to ensure health than the treating of the ailments which could have been prevented. Though, as some people will get sick anyway, crime will happen anyway, no matter how many youth programs are put in place.
The thing about surveillance cameras is that they are not really used to stop crimes as they occur. It is a misconception that there are a bunch of cops sitting around monitors at Garraghan Drive waiting to spring into action once something hinky is spotted. Rather, the video is used after the fact to track and prosecute wrongdoing (according to Chief Keller.) This is certainly not valueless - the proper administration of justice is vital to a free society, and all who support such a society should take a proper pleasure in it.
Yet, questions are beginning to arise as to whether surveillance cameras are worth the money and effort put into them. Recent studies in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Great Britain have found that while cameras do deter theft in the places they are installed, they have little or no effect on violent crime and often push theft into the places where cameras are not installed.
Given that, and a personal preference for spending money on kids rather than hardware and for proactive rather than reactive measures, I would have voted to make the transfer. (I could change my mind if someone breaks into my car, though.) But it's hard to argue with Hayes Clement's logic in voting no: The government might not like the change in plans. Proactive, or reactive, nobody wants to mess with D.C.