Police surveillance camera in Bridgeport draws mixed reactions

BRIDGEPORT — Police surveillance equipment sits on Baldwin Plaza, just outside the Main Street courthouse, which has been met with mixed reactions by business owners in the neighborhood with some saying it makes the area safer while others say it creates a bad perception.

The surveillance unit's solar panel and flashing blue light can be seen from across the park. A pole protrudes skyward from it with four dome security cameras on top. The unit’s wheels allow Bridgeport police to easily move it to other parts of the city, which it does based on “current police strategies,” Scott Appleby, Bridgeport's emergency management director and police spokesperson, said in a statement.

“These camera units provide additional omnipresence to our existing fixed camera deployments throughout the city currently located on city buildings/schools, city property, critical infrastructure and key resource sites, and on some public streets,” Appleby said.

Appleby said it is among other units deployed as a “proactive way” to reduce crime and property damage.

The unit is located near the site of a triple shooting that occurred less than two months ago.

Still, homicides in downtown Bridgeport are rare. Only three occurred in the area between 2011 and 2021, according to data obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media from the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. 

Appleby did not respond to a further question about when the equipment was put there, but Paul Brown, who is opening the “In The City” tapas lounge directly behind it says it wasn't there before the shooting. 

Brown, who owns the Grill II Jamaican restaurant in downtown Bridgeport, said the shooting delayed the opening of his planned tapas lounge that month. New York-based entertainers, including DJs and a live band, pulled out of a grand opening event for the lounge, which is now scheduled to open on Dec. 17. 

“They heard about the shooting and, of course, it was all over the news,” Brown said, adding that customers also called him to ask what he was going to do.

But Brown worries the unit will continue to scare people away from the area. He feels that similar police equipment is typically associated with dangerous neighborhoods. 

"People coming from all over New York, Hartford, everywhere, coming down to your place, and they see this big machine outside, it's clearly telling them that something is going on," Brown said. "I'd rather the surveillance in cop cars coming downtown to drive around or park outside just like any other city."

Brown said his restaurant was broken into twice in less than a month during the fall. After complaining to police, he noticed more patrol cars in the area and felt secure.

Lynn Mosher-Howell, who runs Rapha Massage about a block away from the shooting, said she agrees the unit could lead to a perception that the area is dangerous, but said she feels safer downtown with the increased surveillance. She also likes how many streetlights downtown have cameras too. 

“It makes it zero tolerance for gang activity, drug activity, shootings, everything, because whoever does it is caught instantly,” Mosher-Howell said. 

As for the location of the police surveillance unit, “I don’t think it’s a bad place,” Mosher-Howell said, adding it’s beside an intersection flanked by rows of businesses that include restaurants and bars.

“They’re trying to put themselves in the middle of where all the action is,” she said. “There's literally like five different places. So that's kind of central to all of it.”

Andy.field@hearstmediact.com, Twitter: @AndyTsubasaF