Roanoke business association to set up private security cameras in public intersection

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - The Williamson Road Area Business Association plans to put up private security cameras on city property at the intersection of Williamson Road and Hershberger Road.

The Roanoke City Council voted Monday to allow the association to mount two private solar powered security cameras to the city's traffic signal poles.

Sean McDonough's family has owned a gas station and convenience store at the Hershberger Road and Williamson Road intersection for two years. They've had one major problem with the area: panhandlers

"Going on to business properties, asking people for money, harassing customers, scaring customers away," said McDonough.

In an effort to make customers feel safer, Williamson Road Area Business Association Executive Director Wendy Jones says soon everything that happens at the intersection will be recorded.

"You don't go to another city and not think you are not on camera, you do and it's safe that way," said Jones.

WDBJ7 asked Jones what the main motivation is to install cameras.

"No nothing, there was no specific incident that spurred this," was her reply.

This is the first time McDonough is hearing about the idea and has some concerns.

"I still don't know how I feel about private cameras," said McDonough.

"If they are going to put up these cameras, tell everyone what exactly what they are for."

Jones explained the cameras are intended to make shoppers and business owners feel safer.

"We are simply looking for increased security, increased safety," she said.

According to Jones, the footage will be used only if something happens at the intersection.

"Nobody is going to be sitting watching a monitor saying, oh there goes Billy, there goes Suzie," she said.

"We're not going to do that, nobody has time for that."

Jones believes the security cameras will cost around $20,000. The cameras will be funded through the Williamson Road Service Area tax that businesses on the corridor pay into.

The tax became effective in July of 1993 and helps to pay for business and developer recruitment, economic and business development, planning for redevelopment, and promotional activities.

According to the city,
"the current tax rate is $0.10 of every $100 of assessed property value, or 0.01%. This tax is assessed in addition to the 1.22% general real estate tax."

According to a memo from the City Manager Robert Cowell, Jr. to council members, "the association will be responsible for all costs associated with erection, maintenance, and insuring of the private security cameras, and also be responsible for the installation and removal of the security cameras in accordance with the law."

There is no timeline set yet for when the cameras will go up.