Thanks to a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Ruth L. Bennett Homes in Chester will have security cameras installed on its campus next year.
“Our entire goal is that everyone who lives there should feel as safe as everyone else,” said Steven A. Fischer, executive director of the Chester Housing Authority.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has Capital Fund Emergency Safety and Security Program, which is meant to provide funds so that housing projects can make improvements to enhance safety and security in these communities.
“Families who live in public housing deserve to be safe in their homes,” HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman said. “These grants help ensure the health and safety of public housing residents so they can go about living their everyday lives peacefully without having to worry about having a secure place to call home.”
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Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland said this funding will be beneficial for Bennett residents.
“These grants will go a long way in providing our Chester Housing Authority residents with a better sense of safety and security – something that they desire and deserve,” he said.
Fischer said these improvements will help the Bennett community residents have a safer environment.
“The overwhelming majority of our residents are law-abiding, rule-following citizens,” he said. “This little extra support will go a long way toward putting extra eyes on their community, making it safer to raise their families. They appreciate this.”
Fischer explained that the CHA has done bits of surveillance here and there based on how much capital they had at the time and even the Ruth L. Bennett community has some surveillance and that will be greatly expanded.
He noted that they’ve had great success with the system that was installed at the William Penn Homes in 2017.
“Crime rates dropped way down and stayed that way consistently,” he said. “The year after the cameras went in, there was only one shooting incident the entire year. Prior to that, unfortunately, shootings could sometimes be almost to the double digits in the year, like 10.”
Fischer said the fact that surveillance existed deterred outdoor activity.
“In years prior to cameras, we were averaging about 19,000 service calls a year,” he said, explaining that the bulk of those calls are for minor incidents. “In the years following the introduction of cameras, we’ve averaged about 13,000 calls a year.”
He said cameras were installed at Wellington Ridge last year and they expect to have similar results.
“Bennett Is the largest property that was the hardest one to tackle financially,” Fischer said. “This’ll be a big help towards securing the security at our largest property.”
Debbie Montgomery is a resident of the William Penn Homes and spoke about the difference before and after the security cameras were installed.
“It was just outrageous,” she said. “It is a big, big difference. A big difference. The violence went down, especially in my area, the foot traffic has decreased.”
She said the security system has been a great deterrent.
“Criminals don’t want to be seen on camera,” Montgomery said. “I feel a lot better. Cameras do work.”