Archive for Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Police chief presents downtown surveillance camera policy at forum, will revise for City Commission

December 18, 2012


Some citizens concerned that Big Brother may be coming to downtown Lawrence got their chance to speak their minds and ask questions Tuesday.

At a meeting Tuesday night, Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib took notes on possible revisions to a policy on downtown surveillance cameras before he submits the plan to the City Commission.

Twelve citizens attended the meeting Tuesday night at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St., to ask questions about the scope and cost of the department's plan to install video cameras along intersections on Massachusetts Street. The meeting followed a public forum in September, called by the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, to ask whether the cameras were really necessary and whether they might infringe on civil liberties in the future.

The plan calls for up to six cameras, paid for with $47,000 in grant money sought by the police department and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. Khatib said the cameras would not usually be watched by police on a daily basis and might only be activated during nighttime hours when more incidents occur. Policy requires that the video remain confidential and encrypted, and erased after seven days unless it is evidence in an active investigation.

Khatib has said the downtown area accounts for about 10 percent of the 115,000 calls for service the police receive each year, including crimes, complaints, and minor tasks such as ticket writing. He said the cameras could help prevent and solve robberies, rapes and assaults, and would also be helpful in managing large crowds downtown, such as when Kansas University basketball Final Four appearances spur major celebrations.

Critics of the plan, including Gary Brunk, executive director of the ACLU for Kansas and Western Missouri, said other cities that have installed such video programs found the maintenance costs ballooned over time and have seen the cameras used to monitor law-abiding political activists. He said such programs tend to expand.

"Chicago started with 10 cameras, and now they have 10,000. It's not so much what you're going to do," Brunk said. "But what's going to happen in the future."

The policy, as Khatib noted at the meeting, directed the police department to list the locations of the cameras and their purpose on its website, and to post signage near them downtown. It would prohibit actively focusing the cameras on people without some reasonable suspicion, which could not include race, gender or other classifications protected by law.

"I understand people are nervous about the Big Brother aspect of it," Khatib said. "I'm not trying to track people."

The cameras would be able to zoom, pan and tilt, Khatib said, but the department will seek cameras without facial recognition software, automated tracking or penetrating private spaces with infrared or X-ray technology, which the policy also prohibits.

The meeting did raise some questions that Khatib said he would have to research before finishing the policy, such as how much of the information about, and collected by, the cameras would be public record. He also said he would provide more details about what type of request other law enforcement, including state and federal agencies, would have to submit to access video from the system.

If implemented, the department would submit an annual report on the system's performance to the city, which could appoint its own auditor.

Khatib said he would make another revision of the policy before presenting it again to the City Commission.


jennifermyers 5 years, 5 months ago

The MAJORITY of Lawrencians obviously support this measure if only 12 people showed up at the forum. If these cameras will assist the police with their investigations and serve as a deterrent to criminals, thus protecting people visiting our downtown area, then I support it. The only policy I would question is the length of time the video is maintained (i.e. 7 days). If the server is large enough, why not keep the video for the same period of time as the officers' in-car videos, which I believe is 30 days. This way the policy would somewhat mimic what is already standard protocol within the department. The police have a hard enough job to do given todays societal problems, if this is another tool they can use to assist them with getting the job done, I am in support!!

Gedanken 5 years, 5 months ago

You make it sound like Lawrence has a serious crime problem with the local cops barely able to keep up with the situation. This is not the case. The crime statistics in the area paint a much different picture. In addition, go drive around and count the number of cop cars just sitting around in vacant parking lots just waiting for something to happen. They are bored.

jennifermyers 5 years, 5 months ago

I am not sure of your reading comprehension level, but I at no time wrote Lawrence has a serious crime problem, I clearly state if the cameras will assist the police with their investigations, then I support it. Furthermore, you may want to read the 2011 Benchmark study on the department's website to educate yourself on what crime problems we actually face in Lawrence. I did and I was amazed at the amount of crime we have in Lawrence compared to other cities. And also... I think you will look at the officers sitting in parking lots writing reports or doing follow up a little differently. What you do not take into account is the police vehicle is the officers OFFICE where work gets done. They do not have the luxury of sitting behind a desk to write reports, it is done in parking lots and in their cars.

Gedanken 5 years, 5 months ago

Did I say that you wrote that Lawrence has a serious crime problem? Go read what I wrote again and do it slower. The implication was due to the indication that cops have "a hard enough job given todays societal problems". Those are your words. Maybe you should elaborate? What problems do we have in Lawrence that warrant the cameras that couldn't be taken care of by good ole police work like patrols?

not_that_crazy 5 years, 5 months ago

They are not bored....THEY ARE WATCHING YOU. YOU. Seriously, they have computers in their cars and writing reports, looking up bad guys and doing other cop stuff.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 5 months ago

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Jayhawker07 5 years, 5 months ago

They have been installing these cameras on our dollar already all over town. No joke. The two newest that I have seen are at 23rd & Mass and 23rd & Barker. No mention of that or any of the other cameras they have installed over the last 5 years. Why do the people that live here, not notified about these upgrades to our system. Now it would be stupid of them to install them and not have people who monitor them. So who is monitoring these already installed cameras? How many cameras? Where are they? Who is in charged of this dept.?

To many questions and no answers!!!! We do deserve answers, don't we?

Dan Blomgren 5 years, 5 months ago

Jennifer, Please don't take Lawrence's lack of attendance as a sign of approval. I disapprove yet I was not at the meeting. I wonder did you attend the meeting?

Khatib has said the downtown area accounts for about 10 percent of the 115,000 calls for service the police receive each year, including crimes, complaints, and minor tasks such as ticket writing. ..........That's all fine but the 10% number reflects ALL of downtown. What percentage of service can be attributed to these particular 6 sites where the cameras will be installed? Obviously a much lower number.
Remember unless the crime happens to be committed right in front of one of these six cameras then they are useless. The cost and maintenance to store 30 days of video of law abiding actions to mimic 'standard protocol' is also wasteful. If some crime has occurred in front of one of the cameras and we don't know about it in seven days we'll never know about it.
If the police have a hard enough job to do then I'm sure they are too busy to look for more problems that might have occurred in front of one of these six cameras.
If it were up to me I would place these six cameras aimed at parking lots where I often see two cops pulled up to each other and sharing stories over coffee. At least this way the cameras may differ this useless occurrence.

msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

Its always easy to explain away our rights. These videos will serve the political agenda of whomever is monitoring them. The devil is in the storage and usage. It is easy and relatively cheap to store images. These images can and will be used to discriminate and profile people of certain ethnic groups, age groups, genders and whatever else the people who have an ax to grind and the access and the power to act on these images. When people start taking pictures of me, I take pictures of them. At least I have something to level the playing field with. There is nothing fair about how these images will be used. How do we know when just a select few are being used to make a case while others that would distract from the case aren't being used. Editing and photoshop. What you can get, nobody will have any defense against. When the red light cameras were being debated and stuffed down our throats, I objected because a camera is a camera and and image is an image. My complaint is there was nothing in the cameras view that could and would be used for anything imaginable. The "proponents" of the camera's assured this would never happen. Now it is common practice to view red light cameras for anything and everything other than catching someone running a red light.

Protect the people downtown, or, make people wary of coming downtown.

msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence didn't invent this idea. These camera's have been used before and have a disturbing history.

msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

"Spoken like someone who has something to hide"

Spoken like someone who is educated about the matter. Its been done before old-timer, all you have to do is look at the evidence. You seem like the type of person or maybe the person who hopes to benefit from these cameras. Say, maybe an ax to grind.

mdlund0 5 years, 5 months ago

I am law abiding and I don't want these cameras. Why? Because the road to government oppression and tyranny is paved with promises of security and stability. Learn to defend yourself and get over the paranoia that everyone walking down the street wants to rob and rape you and you won't need Big Brother and the Thought Police to protect you from the subversive proles.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 5 months ago

put your head back in the sand PwopellewCap; there's nothing out here for you to worry about.

Dan Blomgren 5 years, 5 months ago

I don't have a problem with the cameras. I have a problem with my tax dollars being wasted on useless toys.

Gedanken 5 years, 5 months ago

The only people that believe what you believe are purple and hail from venus.

See how that works?

mdlund0 5 years, 5 months ago

Will the footage from these cameras be subject to open records laws? I intend to file a request for all of the footage from all of the cameras every 7 days once they are installed so that it can be uploaded to YouTube for us all to watch.

mdlund0 5 years, 5 months ago

Nah, just lots of time. Why else would I be trolling the Urinal World's web page making comments?

Dan Blomgren 5 years, 5 months ago

Better yet we can have the proponents of this action take turns watching hour after hour of cars taking right turns and pedestrians crossing the street.

Clovis Sangrail 5 years, 5 months ago

These cameras are monitoring public areas, so I have to wonder what part of 'public' people aren't getting.

There is no reasonable expectation of privacy at the intersection of Ninth and Massachusetts.

mdlund0 5 years, 5 months ago

Nor is there a reason to be watched by the government at the intersection of Ninth and Mass. Do a lot of people get held up on that corner? Lots of rape happening there? A bunch of stabbings? No? Then what are they looking for?

Clovis Sangrail 5 years, 5 months ago

They are looking for you, my friend, looking for you.

Dan Blomgren 5 years, 5 months ago

Exactly my point. What are the chances of a crime being committed right in front of one of these cameras? Slim and none! But we've waisted almost 50K to figure that out. It's a senseless waste of my tax dollar.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 5 months ago

I would like to know what parts of downtown are public and which parts are private. Wouldn't that be good to know? It also would be good to know what owners of private property might be allowing their property to be monitored. There is property on sidewalks downtown which business owners use for outside dining, etc. Are these areas "fair game" in the surveillance scheme? Is it controlled and monitored by city staff? Is the surveillance paid for by the "owners"? I think that surveillance is not NECESSARILY bad but the exact areas should be public knowledge, especially if private entities and spaces are tied into the "public" program. Obviously, private entities are free to pay for their own surveillance and, while I think this should be publicized, it should also not be paid for by the public.

BlackVelvet 5 years, 5 months ago

Considering the number of cameras already in public places and all the camera/video phones out there, I don't expect not to be filmed in public. There is no expectation of privacy in a public place.

Keith 5 years, 5 months ago

Since these are cameras in public places paid by the public's money, why not put the feeds up live for all to see.

ThingTwo 5 years, 5 months ago

I agree and think this would be awesome. When I had cable it was always fun to watch the downtown camera on channel 6 and watch for impromptu scenes from locals goofing off.

kujhawkfan 5 years, 5 months ago

What difference does it make if they install these on Mass. St.? There are cameras in stores, banks, ATM's, parking lots, and on the sides of buildings. It doesn't matter if they are placed on private property, many outdoor cameras are still able to view you when you're on public property. If people are worried about cameras on Mass. St., they better not go outside because they're already being watched.

pti3 5 years, 5 months ago

Reminds me of NPR's On the Media show called He Lived in Public: Transcript Friday, September 18, 2009

"JOSH HARRIS: Everything is free except the video that we capture of you. That we own."

See also William Binney on Democracy Now: The NSA Is Lying": U.S. Government Has Copies of Most of Your Emails Says NSA Whistleblower

avarom 5 years, 5 months ago

Just a sneaky way to cut down hiring additional police force in the future, ladies and gentlemen look out for jobs, for more camera's are coming your way!!! Pitiful!! They don't have to pay benefits, pension or salaries to Camera's!

msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

Ever notice how much publicity the "patriot act" gets when it is up for renewal?

koman 5 years, 5 months ago

Go to Europe and most, if not all, of your trip will be monitored by camera. Your expectation of privacy is not the same in public as it is in your home. If I wanted I could go downtown and start taking video 24 hours a day and post a live stream on the internet - in fact, there are many websites where you can view live public live streams right now. Why does progress have to be so hard?

jay_cheese 5 years, 5 months ago

Careful, careful. Capt Khatib, who's not local, comes from a town where they have over 280 cameras to monitor "traffic flow". Not surprised to read this measure proposed by him at all. But don't worry, they're only monitoring for "traffic flow" wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Most are correct, there really isn't a need for this at all but throw a little fear in there and it'll pass.

First a request for new facilites...then a request for more comes the request for more poublic camera monitoring. Someone might want to tell Capt that Lawrence isn't Lincoln NE....

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