The small town of Forest Heights recently unveiled new surveillance cameras focusing on the entrances and exits of the area in an attempt to further ensure the safety of its residents.

Mayor Jacqueline Goodall, a resident of Forest Heights for 17 years, is behind the project. With the support of the Forest Heights Police, funding was set aside from the Public Safety budget to begin installing cameras.

“We’re doing things like this, things like the cameras, to help our citizens,” Goodall said. “It’s our responsibility as elected officials to ensure we protect the health, safety and welfare of all our citizens.”

According to the 2010 Census Bureau, Forest Heights is home to 2,447 residents, a majority of them African-Americans. The most serious crimes regularly encountered are burglaries and theft; murders and assault charges are rare. The overall crime rate for the past five years has been on the decline, a trend town officials expect to continue this year.

However, the tiny town borders other major cities such as Oxon Hill, Fort Washington, Temple Hill and Southeast D.C., outside influences that could potentially impact the safety of the Forest Heights community.

Forest Heights Police Department Chief Stewart Russell said he has a positive outlook for the future of the town. Russell’s staff includes five officers and a deputy chief, but he said even small police stations have to keep up with the times.

“We want this system and the future cameras that will be installed to, as much as possible, safeguard this town,” Russell said. “Technology will not completely safe guard, you cannot get away from the human element—that is, the police working in unison with the citizens and residents of this town.”

Although the city has used cameras in the past, the new units are of a higher caliber. The upgraded cameras, installed by SeeView Security, have constant live feed with HD viewing capabilities, 360 degree coverage and quick playback. The equipment is placed high on poles and protected by a circular casing. Video will be recorded around the clock and can be accessed in the station or in police vehicles at any time.

Stanley Mosley Sr., supervisor of the Public Works Department, said surveillance from the cameras allows for better monitoring of the streets, any residents that need police assistance, and traffic hot spots around town, especially in bad weather.

“I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to the town, the citizens and for Public Works,” he said.

Additional cameras are scheduled to be installed near local schools and parks.


Lee Ann Bohene

Special to the AFRO