NEW YORK (AP) -- Installation began Wednesday on a network of security cameras at a New York City housing project where a 6-year-old boy was stabbed to death, as Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to improve safety in city-run buildings that have suffered a recent surge of gun violence.
Seventeen cameras will be installed in the Boulevard Houses in Brooklyn by October, if not sooner, de Blasio said. There were no cameras in the elevator where P.J. Avitto was killed and 7-year-old Mikayla Capers was critically injured June 1. Mikayla was released Wednesday from a hospital.
"We all have an obligation to do everything we can to protect our children," de Blasio said at a news conference. "We've got to remember that we have had a tragedy, and that, in and of itself, hurts us deeply. But what's even worse is when you've had a tragedy and nothing changes."
The suspect, Daniel St. Hubert, was indicted Tuesday on charges of second-degree murder and other crimes and is being investigated in connection with at least two other recent attacks.
Citywide, crime is down 2.5 percent compared with a year ago. But while overall crime in public housing is also down slightly, shootings on housing authority property are up 32 percent, from 68 to 90, so far this year.
About 58 percent of the 334 city housing developments, encompassing more than 2,500 buildings, have some cameras, according to city officials. But only 41 percent of the individual building stock has cameras, leaving most lobbies, elevators and stairwells unwatched.
The Boulevard Houses are one of five projects where construction on camera systems began Wednesday after the approval of a $25 million installation contract. De Blasio, a Democrat who took office in January, vowed that all public housing developments -- home to more than 615,000 New Yorkers -- will eventually have cameras.
De Blasio noted that cameras would not necessarily have prevented the stabbing and said they were just "a piece" of a plan to improve security in public housing. But residents were pleased that installation had begun.
"It'll make a difference and it might make some people think twice about doing something wrong," said H. Williams, who has lived in the development for 37 years. "It's about time."
De Blasio has ordered the New York City Housing Authority to spend $27 million to hasten the process and criticized his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, for not prioritizing the project.
"I'm not going to mince words," de Blasio said. "It's quite clear the previous administration in a big way did not take requests for cameras seriously."
A spokesman for Bloomberg declined to comment. But de Blasio softened his tone on a Bloomberg proposal to install biometric fingerprint scan technology in public housing buildings that would enable only residents and their guests to enter.
Last summer, a campaigning de Blasio called Bloomberg out of touch for making the suggestion as other Democrats hinted that the billionaire was infringing on the rights of public housing tenants, who are predominantly minority members.
On Wednesday, though, de Blasio said that he didn't know much about the technology and that his administration "would look at any and all options."
Associated Press writer Jake Pearson contributed to this report.
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