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Reassurance the focus of cameras on Charles St.


Chris Coleman believes a resurgence of shoppers along Charles Street downtown is on the horizon.

The 55-year-old owner of Coleman Nelson and Sons Jewelers said he knows the city's installment of video cameras along the street near his store will make people feel safe enough to venture there.

After the success of 16 video cameras on Howard Street, the city installed 16 others two weeks ago along Charles Street, from Lexington to Centre. A kick-off celebration for the Video Patrol will be held at 1 p.m. today at the south entrance of Mount Vernon Park.

Laurie Schwartz, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, which helped buy the cameras, said they will constantly record to provide "one more reassuring element in a corridor with evening-time activity."

Seen in a growing number of urban centers, cameras are employed to make shoppers feel safe and would-be criminals uneasy.

They have been used along downtown's Howard Street corridor since January 1996. Schwartz said criminal activity around those cameras fell 33 percent during the year after their installation.

Members of the Charles Street Association raised about a third of the $80,000 total cost of their electrically powered cameras, with the rest contributed by the Downtown Partnership, the Abell Foundation and Baltimore.

Although the 32 Video Patrol cameras record activities around the clock, they are not closely monitored. Howard Street cameras feed into the Police Department and the Downtown Partnership will monitor the Charles Street video.

The Howard Street cameras have not been used in prosecuting criminals, but they deter crime, Schwartz said. "The emphasis is on recording, not monitoring," she said.

Pub Date: 1/28/99

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