As the city prepares to invest heavily in crime-fighting surveillance cameras, Mayor Street said yesterday that he wants citizens to help in the operation of the new technology.

"Look, I'm big for cameras," Street said, shortly after a City Council committee voted out a $5 million funding bill that will dramatically expand the city's program in the coming year.

"But I've always said that I want community people as part of the monitoring process," he said. "I don't want just police officers down there. I want community people involved so no one will be able to reasonably accuse the police of abusing these cameras."

Street said that the city's commitment to surveillance cameras will roll out over the next five years.

"This isn't a one-day thing," he said. "This administration will do everything it can to pave the way."

So far, the city has installed 18 cameras, first at 7th Street and Girard Avenue, then around the Barratt Middle School in South Philadelphia and on Broad Street at Girard and Susquehanna avenues. More recently, eight portable cameras were installed at other sites.

City Councilman Darrell Clarke, who has pushed for surveillance cameras, said the city will need to find a building in which to house the many monitors that will be linked to the growing population of cameras.

Joseph James, the recently appointed deputy chief information officer, told the Council committee that a steering committee of senior civil servants will begin meeting on Monday to design the expanded camera program. The city will be hiring consultants for design and technology issues and buying improved equipment to support the existing system.

In other business, the administration sent to Council a bill that would give the Philadelphia Gas Works the ability to expand its short-term commercial borrowing program from a maximum of $150 million to $200 million.

A related bill that would provide $221 million in bond funds for capital projects and refunding older debt was not introduced, for reasons not clear to administration officials last night.

And Councilmen James Kenney and Frank DiCicco introduced a resolution calling for hearings on the long-term benefits of replacing cement sidewalks with rubber sidewalks.

According to the resolution, the sidewalk material was invented by a California businessman. The material is described as "tree-root friendly and made from recycled tires."

The rubber sidewalks have been installed in Washington, according to Kenney, and while they cost more than cement to install, they are longer lasting and less expensive to maintain. *