The requests were sent out, and the residents responded.
Ten residents from the Highlands neighborhood have been chosen to evaluate a proposal for surveillance cameras in their community.
The panel is part of a Community Issue Review, a citizen-oriented activity that’s part of the GeoDeliberation Project. The project, conceived at Penn State, is designed to “analyze and facilitate civic engagement and spatial decision-making in a community planning context.”
Residents are asked to form a panel, Penn State researcher Jessica Kropczynski said. The panel will be presented with a proposal in their community. Based on input from advocates for and against the proposal, along with neutral experts, the panel will create a citizen’s statement about the proposal along with statements supporting and opposing it.
The borough already has installed a camera system through the downtown area. According to the initiative, the next step is cameras in other neighborhoods.
The Highlands was chosen to pilot the neighborhood cameras because, according to document statistics, the neighborhood has a higher number of reported offenses compared to other neighborhoods.
The first step for the panelists is familiarizing themselves with the proposal and the advocates, Kropczynski said. Through software developed at Penn State, they will be able to read through the proposal and highlight statements they feel are important. A supporting statement by Highlands Civic Association President Susan Venegoni and an opposing statement by Penn State lecturer Marc Friedenberg also will be evaluated and highlighted.
These statements will be categorized and prioritized, Kropczynski said, creating a summary of the issue. On Monday, the final day of the project, the panelists will determine the 10 most important statements and present them along with five statements supporting the initiative and five statements opposing it.
Neutral experts will be available to answer questions, she said, including the borough’s information technology department and Police Chief Tom King.
“The findings will help define the issue,” she said. “The hope is the statements and the pros and cons will encourage other citizens to take a stance on the issue so they can bring it forward to their council members.”
Based on citizen response, she said, council could be persuaded to fund a project or encourage fellow citizens to contribute to see an initiative realized.
Highlands resident and panelist David Stone said he saw a lot of promise in the review, saying, “It’s a great opportunity to get involved in something like this. This is the kind of thing I would like to see more of in this area.”
Kropczynski said more reviews are planned for the future, with the next one taking place in early 2015.
“I’d be excited to see a controversial issue,” she said. “Maybe an issue people are divided on.”