Sharpstown doesn’t have the best reputation in Houston. Many associate the area near the southwest corner of the Southwest Freeway and Beltway 8 with high crime.
But Sharpstown Civic Association President Jim Bigham says that’s not fair.
“We know we have about three cars stolen a month across the 7,000-home neighborhood. Three. Out of 7,000 homes.”
He says news reports about crime in Sharpstown have often been misleading because they included surrounding areas that are much more prone to crime.
However, in the last few months, one part of the residential Sharpstown area has experienced a very high number of home and vehicle burglaries.
That’s when the civic association decided to put up a mobile camera system.
It’s a white box elevated about two feet from the ground. On top of it, on both sides of a T-shaped pole are two small remote-controlled cameras. Kind of like the ones you see in clothing stores.
“And the idea was to, No. 1, be visible, so that folks that were thinking about breaking into cars or doing some petty crimes may be deterred by that, but also — as you can see it’s on a major thoroughfare, fairly busy street here — that in the event we had some break-ins that perhaps we could capture some footage of folks coming and going on the public streets.”
The neighborhood’s private security service initially put the cameras at the corner of Mary Bates Boulevard and Carvel Lane. It’s now in Dominic Krus’s front yard a block down the road.
Krus says the civic association asked him if they could put the device in his front yard and he agreed.
“You gotta do what you gotta do, you know. We’ve had a lot of… a rash of burglaries around here late summer before school started.”
Jim Bigham says he’s aware that cameras in public places can raise concerns about privacy but he says the association has received no negative feedback on the measure.
“There is that trade-off that folks were very aware of the burglaries and auto burglaries that were going on and they felt that it was a good trade off, at least on a short term basis, to try to catch the guy who was doing it or whoever is doing it.”
But how effective are surveillance cameras really?
Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers Union questions the crime deterrence factor of cameras. He says it might only cause burglars to cover their faces and put fictitious license plates on their cars.
“Any neighborhood that wants to employ that type of technology, it could be a deterrent but, again, it’s not going to replace having a police officer drive through that neighborhood periodically.”
Jim Bigham says that’s exactly what the neighborhood is doing, with three private security officers patrolling the area. He says the cameras are just a piece of the puzzle to increase security in Sharpstown.