Badger Mutual Insurance Funds Video Security Cameras in Milwaukee

Privately financed video security cameras are to be installed along an 11-block stretch of a major south side street in Milwaukee, according to a recent Associated Press story.

Police Chief Nannette Hegerty and Alderman Bob Donovan announced the move for National Avenue, saying it would be the first time such cameras have been installed in Milwaukee to keep an eye on street crime.

Badger Mutual Insurance Co. will pay an undisclosed sum over the next two weeks to mount 16 video cameras on storefronts, aimed at the street. Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. will pay for 44 signs stating “Stop Crime: Area Under Video Surveillance to Protect You,” and its security guards will monitor the cameras.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that we’ve had challenges with prostitution in the area, drug dealing, panhandling … intimidating people on the street, all those kinds of street crimes,” Donovan said. “It reflects poorly on the neighborhood. If we can clean up those crimes, even people just driving through would have a better impression of the neighborhood.”

Hegerty said video surveillance has helped other cities cut crime, and she believed the cameras would help deter it in Milwaukee as well.

The private initiative is separate from city-sponsored plans to set up pole-mounted video cameras similar to those in Chicago and New Orleans, Hegerty said.

That effort is not likely to result in any cameras being installed this summer, she said.

Those security cameras would be far larger than those being installed on National Avenue and would be shielded in bulletproof casings and remotely controlled by police officers, Hegerty said.

The city has applied for an $800,000 federal grant to buy 15 cameras and remote control sets, said Dan Alexander, city emergency government coordinator. But he said early indications are that the city will not get that much from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and officials will seek other funding.

Other Milwaukee neighborhood groups have expressed interest in similar programs, Donovan said, and he said he hoped street security cameras would spread throughout the city.

Civil liberties advocates have expressed concern in some cities about whether street video cameras would infringe on residents’ privacy.

But Donovan said that, when people are walking down the street, “there is absolutely no expectation of privacy.”