Lawmaker says city’s ‘high crime’ cameras are targeting Black community

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — A local city’s efforts to target criminals is being called racist by a state lawmaker.

Lawrenceville has installed surveillance cameras in areas of the city they say have high crime -- but their placement has caused some debate.

Channel 2′s Tony Thomas was at a Walmart on Collins Hill Road, where there is a license plate reader just outside of the entrance. Police said it’s there to target a high-crime area. Resident Evelyn DeJesus said she’s happy for the extra eyes as she walks in the area.

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“I’ve seen crimes in this store, people like stealing and stuff like that,” DeJesus said. “Thank God there are cameras out there.”

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State Rep. Donna McLeod said the data provided by the city of Lawrenceville doesn’t support the extra surveillance in a predominantly Black area.

“These particular cameras seem to target African-Americans,” McLeod said.

Lawrenceville has placed 12 of the cameras in what they say are high-crime areas since last September.

Lawrenceville’s police chief said more than half of the arrests linked to the cameras came from this one area around the Walmart. The demographics of those arrested in the past ten months are basically the same as the census data, 65% Black, nearly 30% white and almost 6% Asian.

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“We’re not targeting race, we target crime,” City Manager Chuck Warbington said. “If you take the stats and it actually overlaps in an area because it is predominantly African-American, that’s not the intent.”

McLeod said her group is digging into additional data provided by the city, but she wants the tag readers near the Walmart moved.

“We have the Lawrenceville lawn. We have a lot of activities going on on that lawn,” McLeod said. “Move some cameras there.”

The police chief said there are plans to roll out additional cameras by the end of the year. McLeod said that she’ll be watching.