Archive for Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mayor balks at cameras for city safety

July 11, 2006


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The city needs to do something about crime downtown, city leaders agreed Monday. But Lawrence Mayor Mike Amyx said one proposal may not fly.

"The camera proposal doesn't mean much for me," Amyx said at a Monday evening meeting at City Hall.

Amyx and other commissioners and city officials gathered to hear public comments surrounding a city memo that outlined four possible plans for increasing downtown security.

The memo suggested that security downtown could be revamped in several ways, including:

¢ Special licensing that would establish standards for bars and nightclubs that feature live music, including possible provisions putting business owners who violate the standards at risk of losing their license;

¢ Requiring security to work at larger nightclubs and venues;

¢ A "Pubwatch" program that would establish simple lines of communication between bar owners and the police, similar to a neighborhood watch; and

¢ Closed-circuit cameras that would be actively monitored by the police department or other operators.

But in discussions, bar owners and patrons seemed tentative when it came to the idea of downtown cameras monitoring the movements of bar patrons and others walking the streets at night.

"I've read Orwell many, many times," Kansas Licensed Beverage Assn. Director Phil Bradley said, referring to author George Orwell's concept of "Big Brother" watching over people.

Usefulness questioned

Bill Staples, a Kansas University sociology professor, author and expert on the usefulness of monitored video cameras, attended the meeting to weigh in on the city's consideration of the issue.

Staples said that current research points to video cameras rarely working to deter true crime, and only acting as a way to capture disasters.

Also, Staples said, people who monitor cameras lose touch with the nuances of what happens on a beat - the kind of understandings that make police work effective.

"They don't know what the situation is they're watching," Staples told city officials.

Amyx, for one, agreed, saying that the cameras would likely only serve to catch people after an act had been committed.

Although no decision was made at the meeting, many bar owners pointed to more security and police walking the streets during late-night, high-traffic hours.

The Last Call, 729 N.H., has been at the center of controversy over downtown crime in recent months, with a spate of guns and drugs confiscated from cars outside of the nightclub and at least one recent, victimless shooting inside.

But owner Dennis Steffes told officials that if more police or security guards were walking the streets at night, those problems may not exist.

"Their presence has always been very effective," Steffes said of security guards.

Steffes added that the only reason young people commit crimes downtown is because they feel they can get away with it.

Bar responsibility

But serious violence such as the shooting that killed Topeka resident Robert Earl Williams outside of the Granada, 1020 Mass., earlier this year can be prevented if bars take some responsibility as well, Williams' widow, LaTonia Coleman, told officials. She has been a proponent for tougher security at bars, including the use of metal detectors.

"You have to provide safety for these people," she said. "I wouldn't want to see someone go through what I'm going through."

Coleman has filed a lawsuit against the Granada in connection with her husband's death, which happened when a crowd gathered outside the club after a hip-hop concert in February.

Coleman told officials that regardless of community tension over violence at hip-hop shows or clubs that feature hip-hop nights, bars in Lawrence draw people from everywhere, from all musical tastes, and they all needed to be protected equally.

Coleman also thanked Steffes for adding metal detectors to the Last Call after the shooing incident inside the club.

Now police officials and city commissioners will discuss what is the next, right step to take.

Commissioner David Schauner said that police foot patrols and late-night community policing would be a start, but regardless of what happens, the commission would likely look at all bars and clubs the same.

"I think in many ways, they all live and die together," Schauner said.


Richard Heckler 11 years, 10 months ago

Downtown is loaded with police patrols...don't think Lawrence is running short on downtown police patrols.

It's the customers. We cannot blame the problems of Last Call on the lack of police patrols . How about club owner responsibility in some cases here.

As one club owner noted in the LJW recently it's the crowd that Last Call chooses to attract. Last Call has established a pattern so I say each time there is a disturbance bill Last Call for the additional service required. A situation that requires 6-9 law enforcement vehicles for an hour or two is not "cheap" to the taxpayer. Bill Mr. Steffes please. Or suspend his alcohol license for six months upon the next disturbance.

Should The Sandbar be subject to mandatory security measures as the Last Call? Not to my knowledge.

lunacydetector 11 years, 10 months ago

you just want that guy shut down because he's trying to overturn the smoking ban.

temperance 11 years, 10 months ago

I don't know about the details of the security camera plan, but it seems like overkill. Just because we have surveillance technology doesn't mean we should use it. This applies to small-scale decisions (like using GSP tech to know the exact whereabouts of your 17 year old) and large ones (like creating a gigantic database of citizen's phone calls because you think it will catch terrorists). Not only does the technology fail to do what we think it will, but it erodes everyone's privacy in the process. It makes us more and more comfortable with the idea of giving up our privacy. In the 21st century, I don't think we have to worry about Big Brother, but I believe we have to think HARD about the proliferation of "little brothers," like municipal security cameras. Let's hope the city spends their money on something else.

YourItalianPrincess 11 years, 10 months ago

Has the Bottleneck had any problems like the Last Call? I just want know if anyone has an answer.

I have gone to the Bottleneck to enjoy a concert or two and didn't experience any problems while there. I however won't go to the Last Call due to the issues it has had.

temperance 11 years, 10 months ago

Pilgrim: I for one like to think of Lawrence as the "London of the Midwest," but don't you think it's overkill to move in that direction? I mean, if stopping crime trumps everything else, why don't we put security cameras EVERYWHERE. And if that's okay, why don't we all wear tracking devices? The erosion of privacy doesn't happen in one fell swoop; we accede to these baby steps until we're all living in one big Panopticon.

Redzilla 11 years, 10 months ago

Don't underestimate the creepiness value for the average innocent citizen. I've lived 6 years in Tampa, where our two main pedestrian/nightlife areas are under 100% monitored video surveillance all the time. I have never committed a crime in my life--don't even speed--but I am completely creeped out by the knowledge that I am being watched when I am in these areas. As for the drunks...they don't know or don't care, and it doesn't seem to prevent crime. Even its success at solving crimes has been limited.

PointofView 11 years, 10 months ago

We are all on a camera every time we use an atm and walk into most stores, especially the chains and even their parking lots. Some cameras being installed in higher crime areas is not a bad idea. I am not for giving up privacy, but those times are already here. We may as well use the technology to aide potential victims of crime if possible.

cutny 11 years, 10 months ago

Peach and her "Bahama Mama" crew only get the white "kids" drunk. I had my door kicked in and was assaulted by three patrons at her odious establishment.

cutny 11 years, 10 months ago

er...from her odious establishment. The place smells like vomit and the foul orange smelling stuff used to clean up vomit.

fletch 11 years, 10 months ago

I disagree with Steffes on this one. People don't commit crimes downtown because they feel they can get away with it. People commit crimes at Last Call because they feel they can get away with it.

ljlook 11 years, 10 months ago

Posted by Marion (Marion Lynn) "Well, Merrill, it seems that you are now advocating for UNEQUAL ENFORCEMENT of the law!"

It's equal enforcement based on the equality of the two different situations.

How often has the Sandbar had these problems?

Why force club owners/patrons who don't have problems to go through extra hassles?

Are there more security guards at an urban public school setting where there have been prior shootings, or more at the private Catholic school ran by nuns?

It shouldn't be Equal in that way. Use common sense.



govols 11 years, 10 months ago

Why not just focus on the bars where actual gunplay has occurred? I've never been threatened or felt unsafe at the Red Lyon, why should they pay for more police or cameras?

reginafliangie 11 years, 10 months ago

Cameras, I don't beleive will stop crime. Most of the people who visit the down town for clubbing are KU students or out of towners, (at night) and most won't know or care that they are being watched. Plus being too drunk to care. Mr. Steffes is trying to make this a cost for the city instead of for himself which is how it should be. He is the one who owns the club that causes most of the issues, he can install cameras at his cost. And for his other comment. The crimes from his club are not only being committed in the down town area, but other areas of town when the clubbers leave and assult and steal from businesses on the way out of town.

Will Skepnek 11 years, 10 months ago

People of Lawrence! Nobody likes crime. Nobody wants crime on any downtown streets. But this is a college town. KU's enrollment is nearly 30,000. The University is the sole reason that this town, and especially downtown, is the wonderful cultural center that we are all hoping to preserve. But, as with everything, with the good comes the bad. With the youthful and out-of-town college students that the university attracts comes the revenue that keeps Mass. St. alive, unlike 99% of the other downtowns in the region. But it also brings a ruckus crowd and sometimes violence does happen. But we need to be wary of trying to make downtown toonstrerile of a place - see Olathe - by closing bars early, making owners pay for services that they haven't solicited, or making fun-loving patrons nervous with video surveillance. By the way, is anyone really scared to go out downtown? Then why all the fuss?

kujeeper 11 years, 10 months ago


Why don't you elborate on how you allege that patrons of the Sandbar kicked in your door and were assulted by them. Rarely is there ever a problem or a fight there.

And to use the term white kids is completely wrong, people of all races and nationalities go there. Plus it is one of the harder bars to get into with a fake, any given night the average age in that place rarely drops below 25. I doubt you could say that for Last Call, or Brothers, or Quintons (we went there in high school to drink).

Sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder against the Sandbar - why?

Adrienne Sanders 11 years, 10 months ago

H*ll yeah I'm for unequal enforcement of the law. Remember in school when a couple of people would be talking, and the teacher would make the whole class stay after as punishment? Well we're not in primary school anymore. The sources of the problem should be the ones who have to worry about the solution. The majority of bar owners do want to discourage any sort of trouble, even if it means less revenue, b/c the trouble may very well cost them in the long run.

QUESTION: does anyone know where I can find statistics about violent crimes in downtown Lawrence? I'm really curious to see if there really has been a rise in crime, or if it's just a couple of incidents that are being made to seem like a huge crime wave.

reginafliangie 11 years, 10 months ago

I don't think it's the general population of KU students, yes, they do get stupid when they drink. But the subjects that are getting arrested for guns, drugs, stolen cars, etc, are from out of town and NOT college students.

temperance 11 years, 10 months ago

dulcinea47 -- you can find some data here: I think your instinct is right (that a couple of incidents are being made to seem like a big crime wave). Having lived in a major city during the 1990s, concerns about Lawrence crime seem on par with concerns about Lawrence traffic (i.e. we live in a great city & we should all relax a little bit more).

Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

Actually I am kind of split on this issue. There are cases where conspicuous camera's deter crime in an area and help apprehend and convict criminals. KU apparently is using cameras to good effect, and in many EU country's security cameras are becoming more and more common.

On the other hand, I too am worried about a loss of privacy (even if it is on a public street) and constant government snooping. While there is no "right to privacy" in a public place, it is nice to be able to live in a country where your every move is not monitored.

It was a pleasant suprise to see a Lawrence mayor consider the pro's and con's of an issue and come down on the side of less government intrusion. Very refreshing.

Berserk 11 years, 10 months ago

Might catch him doing something he shouldn't be, like spending all day at lunch at Tellers?

fletch 11 years, 10 months ago

The best option has always been (and will continue to be) setting up a licensing program. It's fair, equitable, and lets the city punish the offending bars instead of the ones that manage to control their customers. Hell, they could even do it the same way some states and coutnries do their drivers licenses. A bar get 100 points (theoretical number). Different infractions will cost you varrying points. Serving somebody underage dings you 5. The police finding a gun on your premises costs you 50 (as I said, this is all theoretical, i'm not making moral judgements based on numerical values). Infractions count against your score for a varrying amount of time (minor stuff is off your score in 6 months, major stuff could stay on for years). If you drop below 75 points, you get a warning. If you drop below 50 points, your last call gets moved to midnight. Below 25 and you can't have live music or a dance floor. Drop to 0 and you can't open your doors.

This way the problem bars suffer consequences that will help alleviate the problems. Last Call isn't going to be such a destination if they've got to shut down at midnight or there can't be dancing. Those venues that rely on touring acts and dance nights will be forced to keep themselves on top of things in order to keep their commitments. Additionally, since infractions will disappear off your score over set time periods, it gives bar owners who are shut down the incentive to still fix their problem since they might be able to reopen in a few days or weeks.

luv3217 11 years, 10 months ago

Very entertaining. Lawrence is a great town and I have been there often. As a middle aged person, Yes I have been in a couple of the bars there. Namely the Sandbar, never have I felt threatened at all. The management appears to keep things totally under control. It seems you have one bar "Last Call" that is causing problems with the clientel they cater to. Fine the Last Call or at the very least it should be their responsiblity to fix the problem they have obviously caused. In stead of trying to treat all bars equal and keep your privacy - address the problem bar and have them take responsiblity for their actions. Our society seems to be getting full of people that do not want to accept responsibility but blame or have someone else take care of it.

ilovelucy 11 years, 10 months ago

Not What YOU think: your remarks were so full of crap, it was unbelievable.
I take huge offense to your remark that bar owners are the problem. Granted, there is a huge issue with Last Call, but don't be so quick to condemn every other bar owner in this town. I'd suggest that you go to several establishments and meet with such owners but something tells me that your moral attitude would never allow you to step foot in such an establishment. I can only hope that you don't sing on the street corner on Thursday evenings.

Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

Do I hear any advance on Arial Drones? Anyone? Going once, going twice....

BTW, there is a Web Cam. It gets pointed at different places at different times. The one on channel six is pointed at 7th and Mass.

Berserk 11 years, 10 months ago

Conceal and carry :)

btw, did you guys know I like pie?



reginafliangie 11 years, 10 months ago

One night it did catch some youngsters beating up another in the middle of the street. Lots of people saw it and called police. They ended having a nice little peice of evidence.

reginafliangie 11 years, 10 months ago


berserk has finally lost it!

ck1967 11 years, 10 months ago

Cameras-What a dumb idea! Most of the larger bars have cameras and it hasn't deterred any crime. How about some common sense here. The venues attract specific people-

Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

What bars have cameras in Lawrence? Enquiring minds would like to know.

kujeeper 11 years, 10 months ago

Brother's and Fatso's have cameras, it only helps to catch someone after the fact.

dlhj 11 years, 10 months ago

The Sandbar has a webcam, you can log on 24/7 to view all the dangerous activities taking place there...there's also cameras at the door to tape people coming in and their id's. I think there are some other bars in town that have this same system but not sure who they are.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 10 months ago

Setting up cameras throughout the City is only a few philosophical steps away from Farenheit 451. Its actions like this that make me feel bad for being so tough on the City Communishers. Good job on this one. Still batting way below .500 though. Maybe we can strike a compromise and allow cell phone users with cameras have a crack at reporting criminal conduct.

Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

Ummmmm, wasn't that 1984 and not Farenheit 451? Still I do like the idea that individual bars and businesses setting up security cameras as they see fit and then allowing their customers to choose to frequent or avoid those establishments.

Of course, I was for allowing all businesses allowing or disallowing smoking and letting customers to choose which they prefer, or allowing a the citizens to vote on city wide bans, SLT you know stuff that is controversial. What do I know?

Still I have to agree, I have to give the mayor his due. Good call.

Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

I'm sure you're right, yet I was positive the constant surveilance of "Big Brother" was an Orwellian concept from 1984. And I was further misled by wikipedia....

"Nineteen Eighty-Four and its terminology have become a byword in discussions of privacy issues."

Linda Endicott 11 years, 10 months ago

Farenheit 451 was the one where books were banned, and when found they were burned, and the person owning them was arrested. The people against this memorized the books, and passed them along that way, by telling them to others.

There may have been cameras involved, too, though I don't remember that.

I don't understand why so many people are so upset about this, when they thought nothing of wiretapping or the government keeping records of all our phone calls.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 10 months ago

Here's a website where you can read the entire book of 1984, if you haven't already. It's all about Big Brother and the government controlling people.

commensense 11 years, 10 months ago

people that don't do bad stuff, a camera over their head won't be a problem, people that do bad stuff a camera should scare them to pieces, so lets put them up and scare the bad boys and girls

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