Neighborhood Crime Prevention grants ‘under review’

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Cooper-Young Neighborhood Watch program might have to wait a little longer to purchase surveillance cameras.

Earlier this week, the city put a pause on handing out the kinds of grants that would have allowed that community to purchase 72 cameras.

"Here we are, citizens at the grassroots level, trying to accomplish something, and to get the rug yanked out from under us, it's fairly heartbreaking," said Cooper-Young Neighborhood Watch coordinator Aaron James.

That neighborhood watch group was supposed to attend an award ceremony at City Hall Friday to get its grants to put in the surveillance cameras. That event got canceled.

"The only thing we've that been told is that it's for review," he said.

He asked Mayor Jim Strickland why the city pumped the brakes.

Memphis Area Neighborhood Watch, which helps neighborhoods apply for this grant, is moving from the Division of Parks & Neighborhoods to the Memphis Police Department.

"There were 10 grants given, and Memphis PD says we'd like a week or two to kind of evaluate to make sure all neighborhoods are treated fairly," Strickland said.

James said six groups within the Cooper-Young area applied for the city's $2,500 Neighborhood Crime Prevention Grants and got word they were approved.

That would mean a total of $15,000.

He said he was surprised all the Cooper-Young applications got approved, but that was what happened.

Others in the community were not disappointed to hear of a camera delay, because they had concerns about the cameras to begin with.

Some believe the neighborhood watch has come together too quickly, and there has not been time to fully flesh out ideas in the community.

"They don't really have safeguards against what could actually happen to this data, even with only sort of trained professionals. We see the kinds of things that go out on the internet all the time," said Cooper-Young resident Tony de Velasco.

James said the plan is to only access video when there's been a crime, download it, and directly hand it over to MPD. He said the cameras would only be directed at public rights of way.

As of Friday, he was not sure when the cameras could come.

"It was literally like a punch in the stomach, James said.

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