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Cameras help keep an eye on Watts complex

Images beamed to patrol units are credited with making Jordan Downs housing project safer.

March 17, 2007|Duke Helfand | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles city leaders Friday touted the installation of seven surveillance cameras at the Jordan Downs housing project, saying the high-tech equipment already has played a role in making the Watts complex safer.

The cameras, mounted on utility polls, beam images to three police units in the area, allowing officers to keep a constant eye on activity and respond more quickly to incidents, police said.

Several other cameras will be added to nearby 103rd Street, which children use to get to schools.

"These cameras are one of the most effective crime deterrents we have in our arsenal," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said during a news conference at Jordan Downs, where he was joined by Police Chief William J. Bratton; City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who represents Watts; and several other officials.

Police said the cameras were partly responsible for a drop in crime since Jan. 1, but local community leaders attributed the decline to more arrests and the emergence of a citizens gang task force that has taken a visible stand against crime.

"We're out here at night making sure that everything goes right and letting [young people] know we still care," said Betty Day, president of the Watts Gang Task Force.

The cameras have drawn mixed reactions since they began appearing over the last year, with some activists saying the equipment violates their privacy and others questioning whether the cameras deter outsiders from committing crime.

"I think the word will get out that those cameras are out there," said Noreen McClendon, vice president of the gang task force.

In addition to combating crime at Jordan Downs, officials are attempting to bolster services by providing free Internet access at the housing complex's community center.

Funding for the crime-fighting program at Jordan Downs comes from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Housing and Urban Development and Motorola Inc.

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duke.helfand@latimes.com

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