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Archive for Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lawrence police call second public meeting on downtown surveillance cameras

December 16, 2012

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For some residents, the idea of police cameras in downtown Lawrence means more safety and security. Others are uncomfortable with the idea of being under constant surveillance while they walk down street.

The Lawrence Police Department will have a second public meeting Tuesday to discuss plans to install two or three video cameras along intersections on Massachusetts Street. Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib will present details of the plan and a draft of the department’s policy at 7 p.m. at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St.

Khatib has said the cameras could help prevent and solve crimes, and would also be helpful in managing large crowds downtown. The police already set up temporary cameras for major events such as KU men’s basketball Final Four appearances and turn to downtown businesses with privately owned security cameras for evidence in criminal investigations.

Critics of the plan, including the regional chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, say that such examples are relatively rare and that Lawrence could be paying dearly for any security benefits if they give up the right to go out in public without being monitored by police.

Tuesday’s meeting follows a public forum in September, called by the ACLU, to ask whether the cameras were really necessary and what hidden costs the surveillance system might bring. After some debate, the plan was put on hold until Khatib returned with more information, which is the subject of Tuesday’s meeting.

The City Commission has said it would accept the grant money and permit the cameras only after hearing those details. The current draft of the department’s policy would require video taken by the cameras to remain confidential and encrypted and to be recycled each week. The cameras and installation would be paid for with a $46,800 grant sought by the police department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Gary Brunk, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, said he opposed the plan because putting the public under surveillance would likely affect crime only minimally while imposing a chilling effect on public participation in political activities and protests. He questioned whether the level of crime in downtown Lawrence justified measures that “conjure up a vision of Big Brother.”

“I don’t think Police Chief Khatib intends to use it that way. I don’t think we have a police state in Lawrence,” Brunk said. “But I don’t think it’s very prudent for us to go down that road without weighing these issues.”

Bill Staples, a Kansas University sociology professor, has weighed those issues in his studies of public surveillance. In a letter to the editor, he wrote that he opposed the police department’s plan for many of the same reasons as the ACLU. While citizens give up their privacy by going out in public, he said, they may want to keep their anonymity and their ability to remain essentially unobserved.

Downtown businesses generally don’t seem to be opposed to the cameras, according to Cathy Hamilton, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. She said many property owners might welcome some help with a recurring graffiti problem.

“We had a healthy debate at the first meeting,” she said. “But the merchants aren’t concerned about it. I’m not hearing a lot of pushback.”

Comments

David Holroyd 2 years ago

Will the cameras catch the crooks at the Chamber of Commerce and 6 E 6 th....maybe even at KUEA .. ' cause what they are subjecting the public to with the rec center is criminal in my opinion

Ms Hamilton doesn't understand the graffiti is on the rear and roof area of bldgs , not at the intersection. One has to wonder if she even realizes how trash downtown is. Take a walk, Ms Kathy behind all buildings. That dumpster area behind Werner's office has enough grease flowing from it to compete with Not So Easy Lube.

Joe Hyde 2 years ago

Something to consider in this issue is the fact that we are already, daily if not routinely, being placed under camera surveillance in many shopping and commercial areas. We know we're under camera. And generally, aren't we grateful that those businesses have camera surveillance, because we recognize the value to law enforcement in having video that helps identify perpetrators and successfully prosecute same.

I'm all in favor of city-owned downtown surveillance cameras. My only concern is that the cameras might be deployed in fixed-mount fashion. I'd like 'em to be on mounts that allow for quick relocating to areas of special interest. A more flexible surveillance system, in other words.

Gedanken 2 years ago

No, we are not grateful that we are under camera surveillance. They have the cameras to protect the merchandise and for liability protection. If you think it is there for customer safety then you are sadly mistaken.

bearded_gnome 2 years ago

and, if two Lawrence PD officers get shot, the LJW's article covering it will have commenting immediately disabled on it.

kansasredlegs 2 years ago

Perhaps one can be pointed at Schumm's office above Buff Bob's and we can actually see how many times Mr. Fritzel goes up there to give marching orders.

skinny 2 years ago

You are all already on video eveyrtime you go to a store or go up to KU. What difference does one more camarea make??

John Hamm 2 years ago

Surveillance drones, surveillance cameras, cell phone, texting and eMail monitoring yet nobody (well most) don't care. What an unbelievable world Liberals are marching toward and smiling as they do......

John Kyle 2 years ago

Huh? I thought the ACLU was considered a 'liberal' group. The ACLU are the only ones I see fighting this. Please explain how this is something that liberals are pushing? I'm liberal and I don't think we need more cameras.

bliddel 2 years ago

It's called the "Fourth amendment". Say what you will, but your desire to have government protect you from every concievable harm only means that we will soon have an utterly totalitarian government akin to what we suffered under the British empire until 1776, and we will all be a lot less safe.

If guns cause crime, why did the US government just purchase over 600 millions rounds of ammo? Who but us could they possibly be planning to kill?

Meanwhile, I vow to boycott all business in view of surveilance cameras.

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