Safe-Cam project nearly halfway to fundraising goal

An effort to install security cameras all over downtown La Crosse is about halfway to its fundraising goal thanks to some recent big donations.

The biggest one came Wednesday — a $100,000 check from the Ho-Chunk Nation.

In January, La Crosse City Vision Foundation announced it was partnering with the La Crosse Police Department to line city streets with dozens of surveillance cameras. They’re calling it the Safe-Cam project.

Before Collin Price came to work for the Ho-Chunk Nation, he was a Wisconsin State Patrol trooper.

“Knowing the challenges of law enforcement, this will definitely be a huge asset to not only the Police Department but also the city and the citizens,” said Price.

That’s why he was excited the Ho-Chunk Nation dug deep into its pockets and donated a $100,000 check to the Safe-Cam project.


“It’s really important for us that we can give back to the communities, and something that’s going to benefit everybody who’s part of the community, not just tribal members,” said Price.

“We weren’t expecting a donation of that amount. And I fell off my chair,” said Mike Keil, chairman of the Safe-Cam project.

But even with that big check, the fundraising project is just reaching its halfway mark.

“We’re closing in on the $200,000 number. Our goal is $475,000. So we’ve got a long ways to go yet,” said Keil.

In the meantime, the La Crosse Police Department has been researching the strategies of other cities with police surveillance cams.

Police Chief Ron Tischer said he learned what he doesn’t want from his last station in Waukesha.

“The cameras we had were all pan, tilt and zoom cameras. So if the camera wasn’t focused in the area where the crime has occurred, we didn’t capture it on video. So that’s one thing we learned here and that’s why we’re doing more stationery cameras that will cover these areas,” said Tischer.

The cameras would mostly be mounted on city light poles and clearly labeled as police property.

Although police could view the cameras live during an emergency, investigators would primarily use them for review after a crime has been committed.

“You’re always going to get people who don’t like the camera system because they call it ‘big brother’ or whatever. This isn’t a system where we’re going to be watching what people do and what restaurant they go to. We don’t want any part of that. We don’t have time for that,” said Tischer.

Keil said he’s been going door-to-door talking to downtown business owners about whether they’d support it. He said, of the 95 he’s talked to so far, just two have said they’re against the project.

Brothers Bar, Authenticom and Community Credit Union have all donated $10,000 to the Safe-Cam project.

Anyone who’d like to contribute can mail a donation to:
La Crosse City Vision Foundation
Safe-Cam Project
P.O. Box 0175
La Crosse, Wis. 54602