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Madison Avenue Safety Initiative covers target area with cameras

by Chuck Hoven

The Madison Avenue Safety Initiative hopes to have all of Madison Avenue between W. 85th and W. 104th covered by security cameras, 24 hours a day. In order to reach this goal, SAFE-16 is using funding from Ward 16 Councilman Jay Westbrook and Cudell Improvement to offer a $250 rebate to property owners and merchants who install at least a four-camera security system.

SAFE-16 staff members Birgit Hilliard and Michael McDonald say most merchants and property owners have been open to the deal. McDonald says they have chosen a local company, Security Installations run by Mike Lewis, to install the security systems.

Hilliard estimates the cost of installing four cameras and a digital video recording device is about $950. With the $250 rebate, property owners or merchants would pay only $700 for the system. Participants in the program can view the digital video from the cameras on a TV screen, computer or a hand held device such as a Droid or iPhone.

Hilliard and McDonald started knocking on doors in March of this year and now almost every property in the target area has a security camera system. Thus far, 16 properties are participating in the video surveillance program. Five properties have used the reimbursement package. Hilliard says, “There are only a few holdouts.” The SAFE-16 staff hopes to have everyone on board by August.

The stretch of Madison Avenue includes a variety of businesses, several schools, day care and head start programs, apartment buildings, some vacant buildings and a City of Cleveland Fire Station. When talking to the various stakeholders along the strip, McDonald and Hilliard said they were pleasantly surprised to see how many stakeholders already had security camera systems in place. They said that Mike Lewis of Security Installations worked with some of those stakeholders to add additional cameras, especially cameras that cover the street and sidewalk on Madison Avenue. Lewis has offered to install cameras at the City of Cleveland Fire Station for free.

By having the street and sidewalk covered by cameras along the entire stretch of Madison Avenue in the target area, participants in the program are able to share their inter-net protocol addresses with their neighbors and access video from their cameras. Thus, if there is a crime committed, the perpetrator traveling on foot or by vehicle can be followed down Madison Avenue. Those viewing the video can retrieve multiple images of the perpetrator as they move down the street.

Merchants have already begun sharing access to each other’s video images. “What is really nice is I have access to look at cameras from West Boulevard to W. 104th,” said Vincent Rampini a co-owner of the new Triggers Café at 10323 Madison Avenue.

The cameras also allow remote viewing of the commercial strip. Chuck Judd, a First District police officer who owns the building that houses Triggers, says, “The cameras are great. I can sit in my house and view them at 3 a.m.” Judd also patrols the stretch of Madison Avenue on foot or bicycle once a week for four hours as a part time security officer for the Madison Avenue Merchants Association.

The City of Cleveland has promised to place signs along Madison Avenue, notifying all that the area is under video surveillance sponsored by the Madison Avenue Merchant’s Association. McDonald believes the signs will have a preventive value. “They will take away the willingness of people with bad intentions to hang out there,” he said.

The first business on the street to participate in the program was Odyssey Jewelers and Pawn. “Anything for security,” says Kathy Gehalo, the manager and a partner in the business. Gehalo says she would “love to see the signs go up.” She believes the warning will be enough to persuade criminals to go somewhere else.

While the shop already had security cameras installed before being approached by SAFE-16 staff, Gehalo says they added additional cameras that are aimed at the street. Odyssey Jewelers and Pawn now has 14 cameras that they can monitor on video screens and hand held devices such as I-Phones. Gehalo, who grew up in the neighborhood on Elton Avenue, has watched the neighborhood change over the years and can site a number of murders and armed robberies that have occurred in the immediate neighborhood where she has worked for the past 13 years.

Gehalo says her partner, Jack Butchart, moved his business from W. 115 and Clifton after a robbery at that location about 15 years ago. The building that Odyssey Jewelers and Pawn is housed in is a former Cleveland Trust Bank building. It has a large bank vault where safety deposit boxes were locked, and Butchart installed bulletproof glass in the customer service area. Gehalo says since moving to Madison Avenue the business has not been robbed.

Tim Bozak, who with his wife Sandy owns North Coast Auto Repair and North Coast Rent A Wreck at W. 102nd and Madison, says this past year has  been the worst year in the past 40 years in terms of the amount of vandalism his business has experienced. He says he incurred over $10,000 in damages. He sited several examples of vandalism, and thieves taking the catalectic converters from his vehicles parked in a lot on Madison Avenue. Bozak who also keeps an eye on the former Dickey Grabler Company across the street from his businesses, says scrap metal theives have gutted the inside of that building. Bozak is very pleased with the new security program and has installed seven cameras on his business.

Vince Valentino of Cleveland Lumber at 94th and Madison says his business already had security cameras, but after talking with the staff at SAFE-16, he installed security cameras on another building he owns on the street which houses an appliance store. Cleveland Lumber has eight cameras and a video screen that customers can view while at the counter. Valentino points out that the video changes every time a camera detects motion. When a car goes down Madison, the video from the camera facing the street appears on the screen. Valentino says he keeps video from each camera for about two weeks. He notes police officers have asked to view video on a number of occasions.

Paramjit Singh, who owns the building that houses the Express Food Market at W. 102nd and Madison and the apartment building and storefronts next door, has thirty cameras on the two buildings which he can monitor from his hand held Droid. Alla Hamidah, who runs the Express Food Market, is glad to see the collaboration of the merchants in putting security cameras on the street. “It helps to have somebody on your side,” he said.

Claude Nakhle the owner of 89 Madison Deli, says while he already had cameras, the SAFE-16 team helped him to better position the cameras to focus on the street. Nakhle, who lost a good friend and employee in an armed robbery at the store in 2002, recommends that the Madison Avenue Merchants Association also look into getting nighttime security patrols on the street to help merchants that work late at night. “Day time is not as scary as the night time. Daytime people are in and out. At night, we maybe get a customer every half hour or so.”

Some individuals who traverse Madison on a regular basis also approve of the cameras. Matthew Timm who has delivered mail in the area for ten years says because he knows the cameras are there he “feels better.”

Bob Pappin, a plumber who often works in the neighborhood said of the cameras, “you need more of these around here.” He noted he has an increasing number of jobs replacing pipes stolen from hot water tanks and furnaces. He said, when tenants move out of houses, thieves steal the copper before landlords can rent the house out again.

PHOTO BY NORA RODRIQUEZ Friday, June 17, 2011; Triggers Café, 10323 Madison Ave: This newly opened coffee shop is one of the many businesses along Madison Avenue that has installed security cameras inside and facing the street.

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