Westchester Square welcomes security cameras

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto (c) points out new hi-definition camera installed in Westchester Square to the Business Improvement District chairman John Bonizio (l) and Dom Siano of SiSoft Communications.
Photo courtesy of the Westchester Square BID

Criminals, beware.

The Westchester Square Business Improvement District has stepped up security throughout the shopping area.

Security cameras were recently installed at four locations in the BID area as part of a long-planned effort to deter crime in the neighborhood.

The surveillance system was possible thanks to a grant from Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, although the BID installed the cameras with more than $55,000 of its own funds, which will be refunded by the state.

The four cameras and the technology system from SiSoft Communications is just the first phase of the plan, said Westchester Square BID director Lisa Sorin, which will ultimately bring 14 cameras to the district.

The cameras have been in the works for years, said Sorin. The grant was originally awarded to the Bronx Business Alliance in partnership with the Westchester Square Merchants Association in 2009, but was stalled when the BBA went bankrupt, and was later reissued to the Westchester Square BID.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Sorin. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The cameras are hi-definition, with capabilities of rotating 360 degrees and zooming in on images from hundreds of feet away. The camera’s feeds will be streamed to the BID’s office and will also be accessible by the 45th Precinct, said Sorin.

The first four cameras cover the Lane Avenue and Tremont Avenue intersection, the intersection at Silver Street and Tremont, and along Westchester Avenue from the Huntington Library through the stretch of Tremont that leads to Lehman High.

The additional cameras will provide full coverage of the district from the front of Lehman High School, through the ‘safe corridor’ students take to the buses and trains, and up Tremont Avenue and Willamsbridge Road to beyond the BID’s northern border at Silver Street and Eastchester Road.

Enhancing security for students in the neighborhood was a factor in the placement of the cameras, said Sorin.

“You have thousands of kids who come through here on a daily basis,” she said.

And in addition to providing students, local residents and shoppers with a sense of safety, the cameras will be a boon for the BID trying to attract new businesses to the neighborhood, said Sorin.

“We can promote the area on another level for retail establishments coming in, knowing there is an established security system in place,” she said.

Sorin said the surveillance will be a stabilizing factor as the neighborhood grows in the next few years, with the arrival of a brand-new library and the Bronx Council on the Arts headquarters.

“It’s a great thing for the area,” said Sorin.

The BID director thanked the assemblyman for his support of the BID’s mission through the $200,000 grant.

“I am extremely happy to be able to allocate the funds for cameras in the Westchester Square BID,” said Benedetto. “The protection of our citizens and people who patronize Westchester Square shops are paramount in my mind.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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