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CAMERA PLAN TO FIGHT CRIME MAY SHRINK

Surveillance cameras could be roving some of Buffalo's high-crime areas by July, officials predict.

But the Police Department's pilot project, which some had envisioned as placing surveillance devices in all nine Council districts, more likely will begin on a smaller scale.

For five months, police officials have toured crime areas, met with surveillance companies and reviewed funding prospects. Richard A. Ortiz, the Police Department's chief of administration, said he was cautiously optimistic about beginning the surveillance cameras experiment early this summer.

Some Council members have been pushing for a July 1 starting date, noting that crime typically increases in the summer.

"I could see things getting out of control," Ellicott Council Member Brian C. Davis said.

"It's going to get bad this summer," University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell added.

Russell, who favors starting on a limited scale, claims too much time already has elapsed since the concept was proposed last fall. She said the initial plan calling for roving cameras in each district might have been "overwhelming," and that starting the program in one district would be prudent.

Buying the cameras is the easy part. Devising a long-term plan for maintaining, monitoring and relocating them is the real challenge, said Ortiz.

The city might be able to use federal funds or outside grants to purchase cameras. Many of the high-tech digital models cost $1,400 to $3,000. But snaring outside funding for the more costly day-to-day expenditures would be unlikely, officials said.

"It could be very expensive, and I hope it doesn't scare us away from it," he said.

Surveillance cameras have been operating in the Grant-Ferry business area for about six years. While police have stepped in when crimes occurred, Niagara Council Member Dominic J. Bonifacio said that program largely has been run by West Side business and community leaders.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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