Lights! Camera! Crime fighting?

Among the iron laws of politics is this: If you ever want to look like you’re addressing a problem – any problem, from crime to drugs to health care – the most foolproof way to do so is to spend money.

Evanston’s aldermen know that rule well. And so, the City Council voted Nov. 13 to spend $91,500 to buy three digital video cameras. One will be placed at the entrance to Evanston Township High School. The other two will be portable so police can redeploy them wherever crime statistics suggest the cameras might be of use. The purchase will give the city a total of five cameras.

Advocates pitched the purchase as a way to reduce youth crime. In the case of the camera at ETHS, this goal might even be realized. But we’re not sure why the others would address youth crime any more than crime in general. Nor do we quite understand how these cameras are supposed to address criminal activity that takes place out of the cameras’ view.

Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd), who was one of only two dissenters to the council’s decision, made much the same point.

“More cameras just move crime to some back alley,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the answer.”

And although, as Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said, “crime is already in the back alleys,” we think five cameras simply isn’t enough to make a meaningful difference in Evanston as a whole.

On the scale of the city budget, the cameras don’t cost much. But Evanston officials have a duty to try to spend every dollar effectively. If the aldermen believe buying these cameras is the most efficient use for this money, they should do more to explain why.

Enough with the NU name games

Come Nov. 30, if your student group plans on meeting in Norris University Center, you will not be able to meet in the Wisconsin Room or the Ohio State Room. Instead, you’ll meet in the Lake Room or the Armadillo Room or the Rock Room.

The names of the conference rooms in Norris are being changed from schools in the Big Ten to Northwestern-inspired names in order to enhance the NU culture within the student center. We appreciate the attempts of the Norris employees to increase and strengthen this sense of NU community, but focusing on changing names seems like a waste of effort.

Some students will just get confused by the name changes, and most others will hardly notice. A name change is not going to make any student feel more connected to NU culture, but it seems to be one of the school’s favorite activities. The Escort Service became SafeRide; the Norris C-Store became the Paws ‘n Go C-Store. The Norris Game Room is holding a contest to find a new moniker.

But as long as the university is convinced that fiddling with nomenclature can build NU pride, we figured we might as well offer a few suggestions of our own. How about the Cindy Crawford Institute instead of Tech? She did get a scholarship to study chemical engineering here. What about the Dick Gephardt Department of Political Science? David Schwimmer Hall instead of Annie May Swift?

Even if these facetious name changes actually happened, students would still complain about walking up to Tech or having to stop by Scott Hall to drop off something at the poli-sci office. In contrast, the remodeling of the student center’s first floor will build far more community than any name change. After all, Tech, by any other name, would still be just as confusing to get around.