Fruitvale merchants hope cameras will deter crime

July 14, 2011 8:23:11 PM PDT
Some merchants in Oakland are hoping video cameras in their neighborhood will deter crime. They are putting up cameras in a business district where the murder of restaurant owner Jesus "Chuey" Campos is still unsolved.

There were surveillance cameras up when Campos was murdered in April, but the footage hasn't helped police catch anyone. Business owners here hope that the new cameras, which will be unveiled Friday, will make a difference.

In a matter of weeks, about two miles of Oakland's Fruitvale District will be blanketed with crime cameras.

"The cameras are necessary because there's a lot of crime here," travel agency owner Hugo Guerrero said.

But unlike the old cameras up in the Fruitvale District, this new batch is paid for by the city. The footage will be high definition and the cameras strategically positioned by police to cover crime patterns in the neighborhood.

And the first installation is outside Otaez Mexican Restaurant -- for a reason.

"The community right now is very upset because right now is 90 days from the crime and nothing happened," Guerrero said.

The "crime" is the still unsolved murder of beloved restaurant owner Chuy Campos. The pre-dawn, botched robbery infuriated the community and rallied fellow business owners to demand a change.

Now, if a crime is committed in the Fruitvale District, merchants will hand over video footage to police. The plan is to eventually have officers or volunteers monitor the images in real time.

"The idea is at some point to consolidate all the cameras we have in Oakland, which is quite a few," Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente said.

The Fruitvale plan is modeled after Oakland's Chinatown, where merchants say a string of robberies targeting seniors stopped as soon as the cameras went up.

"Once we had the cameras installed throughout the Chinatown area, not only did we catch a number of people, but we cut down the crime substantially," Oakland Chinatown Merchant's Association spokesperson Carl Chan said.

Fruitvale merchants are hoping they get the same results.

"Right now, everybody is scared to come to Fruitvale, but let me tell you something: Fruitvale is safe," Guerrero said.

More than 30 cameras will go up in all, costing the city about $35,000. As for Campos' murder, police have no leads and they are hoping witnesses might come forward.


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