AURORA — Tonya McKinely is uneasy when she thinks about the idea that Big Brother could track her almost-daily foot commute to the Martin Luther King Jr. Library on East Colfax Avenue.
But Aurora officials are considering a plan for new, high-quality video cameras in the area that would allow them to do just that.
"It's just weird," McKinely said as she crossed the bustling thoroughfare at Emporia Street on a recent afternoon. "The fact that someone could soon get a feel for my daily routine because of a camera's abilities isn't cool."
Despite that kind of uneasiness, officials with the Aurora Police Department insist the proposal to add new video-surveillance cameras and data-transmitting technology to a stretch of East Colfax will benefit pedestrians and business owners.
Next month, the Aurora City Council is expected to vote on the proposal. If approved, it would allow for the placement of 12 to 15 surveillance cameras along Colfax. The effort mirrors Denver's expansive high-definition video-camera system and could create a surveillance dragnet between the two cities that stretches along Colfax from Broadway east to Interstate 225.
"Some cameras already exist ... and we're able to see movement with them, but it's grainy and choppy," said Aurora police Lt. Dan Mark, who presented the proposal to the council. "What we're trying to attain is streaming video that is clear and can be utilized in investigations."
Use of surveillance cameras is on the rise nationally, and Mark said he consulted with police officials in Los Angeles and Baltimore about their efforts in using the technology.
The Denver Police Department has spent about $220,000 along East Colfax on surveillance cameras and video technology, according to spokesman John White. Two years ago, the Colfax Business Improvement District gave Denver police $250,000 to buy and install about a dozen cameras along the corridor stretching to the Aurora city limits at Yosemite Street.
Mark said current cameras the department uses along Colfax are unable to transmit video from a target area to a remote video server.
"These cameras will make transmission of video footage much clearer, faster and more efficient," Mark said. "In our current system, video must be transferred to a digital media system, which can be time-consuming."
Moreover, the proposal before the council calls for updated automated license-plate readers at intersections and on police cars. The readers scan license plates and compare them with data collected by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which keeps records on stolen cars and wanted individuals associated with certain vehicles.
In total, the cost is more than $300,000 and will be taken out of the city's technology-efficiency fund. Additional maintenance costs for the cameras and technology will accrue each year — although they'll be covered by a warranty the first year.
"These cameras are a handy tool that law enforcement can use to reduce crime in the area," said Councilman Bob Roth, who sits on the Public Safety Committee, which approved the proposal and moved it on for consideration by the full council. "And it's going to benefit business owners, residents and pedestrians in the area."
According to Aurora police statistics from 2011, of the more than 700 crimes reported along Colfax that year, the majority were larcenies.
"Though it has cleaned up some over the years, you still see drugs being dealt and girls working the streets around here," said Vivian Andreu, the general manager of a liquor store on the southwest corner of Colfax and Peoria Street and a supporter of the proposal. "But if someone knows they're being watched, it might make them think twice."
From behind the liquor store's counter, Andreu pointed to a bus stop where shelters that had once protected riders from the weather have been removed because of criminal activity.
"Instead of taking away the protection from the hot sun and rain, put those cameras in there. That will limit the crime," Andreu said.
Mark said cameras would be installed at various locations, but he would not provide details. Ideally, Mark said, the new cameras would be installed and in use by the end of the year.
"We're just trying to have an impact and make things a little more safe." he said.
Kurtis Lee: 303-954-1655, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/kurtisalee