Cracking Down on Illegal Firecrackers
Major disturbances and violence occured in Columbia public housing around the Fourth of July in 2004. So, the Columbia Housing Authority installed security cameras.
"We had a lot of problems with fireworks, particularly with people coming in from outside our property onto our properties and shooting off what became bigger and bigger fireworks," said CHA Executive Director Phil Steinhaus, adding that the surveillance cameras have helped in other instances, too. "It's helped to identify problems with simple things like people speeding, to problems where we might have fights and other things beginning to occur in the neighborhood, and identify the people coming into our neighborhood that might be causing problems."
Some residents said they didn't know CHA cameras are watching their neighborhood until a notice arrived at their doors last week. They said they need more security people all the time, not just on holidays, because there are more serious problems than firecrackers.
Steinhaus blamed the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for the personnel cutbacks.
"Over the years, we've received less and less funding from HUD from federal budget cuts, which means we've really had to reduce the size of our security force," he explained. "So, with less security able to be on the streets, these cameras help to be our eyes and ears."
More CHA security staff and Columbia police will be on hand during this July 4 holiday.