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Surveillance installed in south Tulsa by Tulsa police raises concerns

Livestream cameras mounted on a pole near Johnston Park. (Dabars/KTUL)
Livestream cameras mounted on a pole near Johnston Park. (Dabars/KTUL)
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Tulsa police installed live-streaming cameras worth about $50,000 around 61st Street and Peoria Avenue.

Captain Jacob Johnston told NewsChannel 8 the cost covered the setup for 22 cameras around the Hope Valley area.

"When we started this initiative, we'd had a series of homicides that had happened in here. But historically, 61st and Peoria is a high crime area, especially with violent crime," said Johnston.

The new cameras, which will be accessible through the real-time information center, are part of TPD's growing technology tools.

"The cameras are working. We don't have anybody that's actively monitoring them. They're just a part of the rollout that we have that we're doing and kind of the very first step that we're taking," Johnston said.

Last summer, the department installed Flock cameras around the city, especially at 61st and Peoria.

"We're continuing to advance the technology that we can we can put into the community so that we can really be a force multiplier to help the officers that are out there," Johnston explained.

Tamara Lebak lives in the neighborhood and is against the surveillance initiative.

"This neighborhood did not consent to a communist police state," Lebak said.

They said their neighbors are under-resourced and over-policed, and believes that cameras aren't the answer.

"I think what would be better is actually helping to better understand what the needs of the community actually are instead of assuming that policing is actually going to solve the problem," said Lebak.

Their city councilor, Jayme Fowler, supports the cameras but agrees with Lebak.

"Just simply throwing more police or more surveillance into the community, that does not win the day," Fowler said.

He said he believes the cameras are part of the progress in the neighborhood.

"We're setting the stage for deeper, more robust community engagement, and then not only that, we're taking a look at some long term strategic plans and engagement," said Fowler.

He said he's helped develop a working group that meets every two weeks.

"We don't want to gentrify the neighborhood, but we want to make sure that the people there, that we listen to them were engaged, and that we do care very, very much," Fowler said.

NewsChannel 8 asked Johnston what he would say to critics who believe placing the cameras in a high crime area is instigating a problem.

"Our focus is really again, the effort to reduce the violent crime that's happening in the city. We're placing them in areas and we've had a lot of success using them," said Johnston.

Johnston said the cameras quickly capture evidence, which they can use to help make cases against criminals stronger.

"We're focused on reducing crime, and if that's the lifestyle that you've chosen, we're going to be able to capture the choices you're making and be able to bring you to justice much sooner with this with this technology," he said.

Johnston said the department is working on policies for the cameras.


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