Westchase embraces surveillance cameras; Chron cheers

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In the leadup to Memorial Day last week, Mattress Mack and other Westchase district leaders excitedly announced a “private-public partnership” to install security cameras all over their part of town:

The proposed camera system was introduced Tuesday by Houston businessman Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale and his wife, Linda, who live in an apartment at the Westside Tennis and Fitness Center, which they own. McIngvale said he became a fan of camera-surveillance technology because it quickly ended auto thefts and burglaries after he installed them at his furniture business.

“Police are stretched on their budgets, so it’s something we wanted to do as merchants,” said McIngvale, a member of the nonprofit Operation Westside Success, which is raising money for the system. “We’ve got a big economic stake in this, and it’s up to us to make our neighborhoods better.”


James Murphy, general manager of the Westchase District, said cameras the improvement district installed on private property outside restaurants and shopping malls led to a dramatic reduction in crime.

“We have 11 cameras we’re using, and it’s fantastic,” Murphy said. “We’ve reduced parking-lot crime in those locations 70 percent on average, and in some areas more. We’re talking about auto theft, auto break-ins and robberies.”

Apparently, the cameras are not as effective at preventing arson, but maybe they’ll still help catch the Gallery Furniture arsonists!

While surveillance cameras do have some merit in reducing crime in parking lots, a fair amount of research suggests that they otherwise have little impact on crime. Interestingly, that perspective does not find its way into the Chron story, which instead focuses on what the newspaper is good at: cheerleading.

If Mattress Mack wants to raise money to install cameras to help protect cars in West Houston, good for him. However, we suspect that the police force established several years ago by the district will be a greater deterrent to serious crime.

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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX