Exclusive: Hundreds of NYC public housing buildings still lack security cameras

Derick Waller Image
Wednesday, December 8, 2021
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Derick Waller has an exclusive documenting the lack of security cameras at hundreds of NYCHA buildings.

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, Brooklyn (WABC) -- There are more than 15,000 police surveillance cameras on the streets of New York City, and thousands more if you count private cameras.

But in public housing projects, which account for huge percentages of shooting and murders, there are precious few cameras to help stop crime.

It's been a problem we've investigated for years, so why hasn't it been fixed?

Gunshot victims were rushed to the hospital after rival gangs opened fire outside the Roosevelt Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant, injuring eight people on August 16. But when detectives went looking for video evidence, they came up short.

NYCHA has since installed new security cameras at the entrance, but walk up the stairs and through the rest of the building, and you'll see there are zero cameras elsewhere.

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There are none in the hallways, elevators or stairwells, and it's a problem we covered in 2016.

That was five years ago, but now, Eyewitness News has learned at least 70 NYCHA campuses totaling hundreds of public housing buildings still lack video surveillance.

Additionally, NYCHA refuses to identify which buildings are without cameras, claiming that if disclosed, it could endanger the life and safety of any person.

Critics like community activist and public housing resident Saundrea Coleman say the absence of cameras is the real danger.

"We deserve to be safe, and there should be no NYCHA development without any cameras," she said.

While public housing makes up just 6% of the city's population, it accounts for 17% of the shootings and 19% of the murders.

What's more, we found crime in public housing has shot up 68% from pre-pandemic levels.

NYCHA officials refused to talk on camera, so we went to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"More (cameras) are coming," he said. "We are hoping and praying that the federal government, in the coming days, is going to approve legislation that will give a huge boost to NYCHA in terms of a major, major investment in public housing."

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But Coleman says the $4.1 billion agency has access to plenty of money already.

"Our elected officials have discretionary funding," she said. "They can advocate and ask for funding."

That's what happened at the Roosevelt Houses, with Councilman Robert Cornegy coordinating with the Brooklyn District Attorney's office to come up with the money -- but it took a tragedy to make it happen.

Months later, that case remains unsolved.

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