York City mayor wants more input on surveillance cameras

Matt Enright
York Dispatch
Montez Parker, the lead consultant for a feasibility study on a citywide surveillance network in York City, speaks to a crowd at a public forum on Tuesday, April 6.

York City wants to hear from more of its citizens on a proposed $3.4 million surveillance network in the city.

After the release of a report from consultant Montez Parker, who was hired by local nonprofit Better York, Mayor Michael Helfrich said he wants to hear from more citizens.

"I've taken the report," the mayor said. "Now I want to do some additional polling."

More:York City surveillance program feasible, but taxpayers could be on the hook

That polling would take the form of going door-to-door in select neighborhoods, Helfrich said. It would include more detailed questions on violence prevention or techniques to combat violence that the city is in the process of or considering implementing.

But the proposal has also drawn concerns about how the video collected by the surveillance network would be used.

More:Final report on York City surveillance proposal to be released Tuesday

Helfrich said he'd like to hear from at least 2.5% of the city's adult population, the same as the previous American Rescue Plan Act survey. He hopes to begin the survey in the next few weeks.

According to the report, assembled by Parker, the network would include cameras at 55 locations across the city, similar to Lancaster's 170-camera network overseen by the Lancaster Safety Coalition. It would cost $501,000 per year in operating expenses.

More:York City surveillance feasibility study nears completion, final forum scrapped

Helfrich said the hope is that a York City camera network would help police reduce crime and solve more cases.

"One of the big issues we have is that folks are frequently fearful of coming forward and being witnesses," he said, "and that makes it harder to prosecute crimes."

More:ACLU: York City surveillance proposal could create more potentially fatal encounters with police

The plan has received pushback from organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that the system would lead to more targeting of minority communities within the city.

The York branch of the NAACP also opposes the surveillance camera plan.

"With a criminal justice system shaped by biased policing, unfair judicial precedents, and rooted in anti-Blackness and racial disparity, the installation of surveillance cameras would have severe consequences for our black and brown community," a recent NAACP statement said.

York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow is still in favor of the plan, according to department spokesperson Lt. Daniel Lentz.

More:York NAACP mulling public forum, polling about city surveillance proposal