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Neighborhood group calls on Chicago officials to install high-tech network of security cameras

The Fulton Market Association hopes the cameras will deter crime

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Following a recent string of expensive crime at his restoration company on Chicago's West Side, Gary Maus is hopeful a new program could be the answer.

"We had six vehicles broken into, vandalized, damaged and equipment stolen out of it. As well as catalytic converters removed," said Maus, the CEO and president of Paul Davis Restoration of North Chicago.

The theft and damage will cost Maus tens of thousands of dollars.

"It really is discouraging. It takes away from the good you try to do in the community," said Maus.

He is, however, encouraged by a program presented by the Fulton Market Association (FMA) during a Tuesday afternoon Zoom meeting. The goal is to deter crime through a network of high-tech security cameras across the city.

 "There are 77 communities around Chicago. We’re saying put 50 cameras in each of those 77. And where there’s high-crime hot spots, put more cameras there," said FMA Executive Director Roger Romanelli.

Romanelli is calling on Chicago's mayor to pay for those cameras with surplus money from the city's Neighborhood Tax Increment Financing, or "TIF" funds.

Romanelli, through analyzing online city documents, believes there is anywhere from $2.5 billion to $3 billion dollars available, though the city did not confirm those numbers to NBC 5.

According to Chicago's Planning and Development Department, TIF is a special funding tool used to promote public and private investment across the city.

When an area is declared a TIF district, the amount of property tax the area generates is set as a base Equalized Assessed Valuation amount. As property values increase, all property tax growth above that amount can be used to fund redevelopment projects within the district, according to the city.

"That TIF money is neighborhood property taxes," said Romanelli. "Neighborhood residents and businesses should have input. They’re not having input and that money needs to be put to anti-crime measurements immediately."

POD cameras, or police observation devices, are already in use, but Romanelli says they are not as effective as they could be, nor are there enough of them.

Pointing to two incidents on the West Side, including a shooting that sent patrons at Aberdeen Tap running for cover, and the shooting of a rideshare passenger in Garfield Park, Romanelli says cameras need to be modernized and connected throughout the city.

"There were no city cameras to capture those crimes. They had to rely on private business cameras. We don’t have enough of those in the city. We need the city to have its own network of cameras to apprehend and deter these criminals we know are everywhere."

The mayor's office did not respond to NBC 5's request for comment on if Mayor Brandon Johnson would support using TIF funds for cameras.

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