Cook County denies Evanston funds for surveillance cameras near ETHS

Bailey Williams, Assistant Summer Editor

Cook County denied Evanston’s request for a grant to fund the installment of surveillance cameras near Evanston Township High School earlier this month.

According to a copy of a letter obtained by The Daily dated June 12, the county wrote to inform the Evanston Police Department that the project for which Evanston requested funding was not selected to receive a grant.

The grant falls under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which the county’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management awards through an application process. The program seeks to provide funding to aid law enforcement, programs for improving technology and other public programs.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz told The Daily in an email that Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who supported the surveillance camera proposal in part because of her concern for the safe passage of children, found out about the denial of this grant on the same day she spoke at the funeral of Alante Vallejo, an 18-year-old Evanston resident who was fatally shot June 6. Bobkiewicz said the mayor commented that the notification on that day was an “unkind coincidence.”

Evanston police Cmdr. Jay Parrott also confirmed this grant denial in an email, saying “the county did not indicate why the grant money was specifically denied for Evanston.”

The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management considered more than 60 grants, totaling more than $6 million, but only had just over $1.5 million to award to selected applicants. Evanston’s surveillance camera proposal did not receive funding.

The initial community discussion on the surveillance camera installment plan was heated. On Dec. 9, 2013 during a city council meeting, Tisdahl unveiled her surveillance camera plan.

“I certainly would like to move crime out of town entirely, but I think we owe our students a safe route to and from high school,” Tisdahl said during the meeting.

The proposal looked to install more than 10 surveillance cameras along 3.7 miles of Dodge Avenue and Church Street, which intersect at ETHS.

Aldermen voted 5-3 at a January council meeting in favor of Tisdahl’s proposal.

Aldermen Judy Fiske (1st), Don Wilson (4th) and Peter Braithwaite (2nd) all voted against the proposal in January. Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th) did not attend the council meeting and, therefore, did not vote on the proposal.

Although the city did not receive a grant to fund the installment of surveillance cameras, the city did receive a JAG program grant for more than $100,000 to fund the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program.

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