Wisconsin News

Police plan to put ‘a camera on every corner' downtown

LA CROSSE, Wis. - From junior high through her college years, Myrna Peacock worked at her family's shop in downtown La Crosse -- Community Camera and TV.

"We sold our business in '93, part of it, to the gentleman and his son who passed away -- killed, actually," said Peacock.

The owner of what then became May's Photo, Paul Petras, and his teenage son, AJ Petras, were gunned down in their shop in September.

"It's very upsetting to think that this is happening in La Crosse, a wonderful place to live," said Peacock.

Investigators combed through hundreds of hours of security video from local businesses, which eventually helped lead them to an arrest in October.

But they lost precious time seeking out the footage, converting it to a usable format, and figuring out whether the time stamps were accurate.


"With budget cuts and everything, we need something that's more efficient so our investigators can spend less time searching out other evidence," said La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer.

That's why the La Crosse City Vision Foundation approached the department with the idea to raise $475,000 to install 41 cameras downtown.

"We need police officers out on the streets, but since we can't afford to have a police officer on every corner, it obviously makes sense to have a camera on every corner," said Tischer.

The funding for the project will be raised through private donations. Nearly $500,000 might sound like a lot of money for 41 cameras, but Mike Keil, the project's chairman, said the price tag was chosen with the future in mind.

"We purposely set the goal high so we have funds available to add cameras in the future, if they're necessary. The actual fundraising amount to get the system off and started is $350,000. But we don't want to go back to donors year after year after year," said Keil.

But not everybody's convinced it's a good idea.

"If the businesses that are already down here already have the cameras in their own buildings ... Are we just watching people to watch people?" said La Crosse resident Ryan Hyland.

Tischer said Big Brother won't be watching.

"We don't have the time, nor do we want to monitor these video cameras constantly," he said.

He hopes having the cameras constantly rolling will not only help catch criminals in the act, but deter them from committing a crime in the first place.

These won't be hidden cameras. They will be clearly marked as police surveillance cams, positioned to monitor streets, sidewalks, alleys and parking ramps.

Anyone who would like to contribute to the project can mail a donation to the following address:

La Crosse City Vision Foundation
Safe-Cam Project
P.O. Box 0175
La Crosse, Wis. 54602

The La Crosse City Vision Foundation hopes to raise all the money for the project by June 13.

Police hope to have the system operational by September.

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