A project that has been in the works for more than a year is finally moving forward in downtown La Crosse.
It's called the Safe-Cam project. The goal is to install about 41 security cameras in public places downtown.
The La Crosse City Vision Foundation has been raising money for this project and just surpassed the $350,000 mark, which is enough to get the ball rolling.
One store manager said she cannot wait for the added security, especially after a double homicide in 2012 left police in the dark for weeks.
For more than five years, Casey Brueggen, the store manager at Howes Diamond Jewelers, has worked downtown. That's more than 1,800 days of helping customers, but one in particular stands out.
"It was a beautiful day, 2 in the afternoon and I am working with an engagement client on the other side of the store,” said Brueggen.
Just down the street, at May's Photography, something happened.
"If you looked right out the window, you could see the yellow tape off the store and people outside gathering and lots of police vehicles,” said Brueggen.
The owner of the store and his son were killed.
"It's scary because you think we could have just as easily been burglarized or hurt,” said Brueggen.
Now, Brueggen takes additional safety precautions while at work.
“We always have someone else with us, another co-worker, to make sure we are watching out for each other, but sometimes you feel like that is just not enough,” said Brueggen.
That double homicide is what prompted the Safe-Cam project.
"It took the police about two weeks to find and go through private cameras, private camera systems and try to piece everything together,” said Mike Keil, the fundraising chairperson for La Crosse City Vision Foundation.
The goal is to place about 41 security cameras in public places downtown.
“The cameras are going to be for the use of the police department and they will mostly be passive, meaning that the video will be reviewed after a crime occurs,” said Keil.
Keil said it would have helped police catch the homicide suspect a lot faster.
"Compare that two-week period it took to gather the information vs. say an hour to gather the information from a safe cam, it makes a big difference,” said Keil.
But Brueggen said it's better late, than never.
"You want some eye in the sky to be watching for you, anything helps, we are all anxious for these cameras,” said Brueggen
Now that the La Crosse City Vision Foundation has raised enough money to start the process, it will take about two months to find and hire a contractor, but the cameras will be up before the end of the year.
The La Crosse City Vision Foundation will continue to accept donations until it reaches its ultimate goal of $475,000. The excess money will be reserved for the police department to add more cameras in the future.
If you would like to donate to the Safe-Cam project, you can send your tax deductible donation to:
La Crosse City Vision Foundation
PO Box 0175
La Crosse WI 54602