News and notes from around town:
• Perhaps the city is formulating a plan to win millions on America’s Funniest Home Videos. A series of cameras aimed at Massachusetts Street on a late Friday night certainly would put the city in the running for such a prize.
I don’t think that is what the city has in mind, but city commissioners are being asked to endorse a plan that would allow surveillance cameras to be installed throughout the downtown area.
Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will receive a request from the Lawrence Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to apply for nearly $47,000 in grant money to put video cameras in downtown Lawrence.
Details at the moment are a bit sparse. The information I’ve seen doesn’t say how many cameras will be placed downtown, whether they will all be trained on Massachusetts Street, how regularly they’ll be monitored, or other such details.
The request, however, does state the cameras would be used to “monitor and manage downtown traffic, parades and other large activities as well as capture evidence of criminal activity.”
The two law enforcement agencies are requesting money through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. The grant request is for $46,800 and does not require the local governments to provide matching funds.
Combine these cameras with the cameras at 12 intersections spread throughout the city, and law enforcement would have a significant network in place. The cameras at the 12 intersections currently aren’t used by the Police Department — they’re in place for traffic purposes — but city officials have said the images from the traffic cameras eventually could be routed to the law enforcement center for use there.
It will be interesting to see how the public responds to the idea of cameras in downtown. It is easy to see how they can be used as a crime fighting tool, but anytime you bring up cameras to watch the public, you invariably are going to get some Big Brother-type of arguments.
I’ll work to get you some more details about the proposal.
• If cameras were in place downtown this weekend, they could capture crown-wearing, tea-swilling, Union Jack-loving throngs, all mumbling incoherent facts about Downton Abbey.
That’s right, it is Diamond Jubilee time. If you remember several weeks ago, we reported the folks at Britts, 929 Mass.. applied for a permit to close 10th Street from Massachusetts to New Hampshire from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 2.
At the time, details about the event weren’t finalized, but they are now. The folks at Britts tell me there will be several activities to celebrate the Queen’s 60 years of reign over the United Kingdom. (Unofficial marketing slogan: Celebrating 60 years on the Throne. That makes me giggle, but of course, I’m just a dumb American bloke waiting for the next Austin Powers movie to be released.)
Among activities are:
— 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.: A full English breakfast served at Queen Lizzy’s, 125 E. 10th Street. Reservations, however, are required. (I’m not certain whether a sophisticated accent and a thorough understanding of the plot lines of Downton Abbey are required.)
— 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Maria & Megan, performers featuring English and Scottish tunes.
— 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m: Dorians Wheel, a musical group playing Irish and Celtic music. (Go Paul Pierce! Oh, not those Celtics.)
— 1 p.m.: The KC St. Andrews Scottish Highland Dancers.
— 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.: A Celtic jam session.
— 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Vera, Chuck and Dave, featuring songs from the Beatles.
Throughout the event, there will be about a dozen British automobiles on display from the Lawrence All British Car Club. Also face painters and a variety of jewelry, book and Scottish goods vendors will have displays. My understanding is the Replay Lounge will open at 1 p.m. and will feature a host of British ales.
• I’m pressed for time this morning, so we’ll call that a wrap for Town Talk this week. I have to finish wrapping my present for the Queen. It is video surveillance footage of Heard on the Hill columnist Andy Hyland performing his favorite scenes from Downton Abbey. In case you missed it, Hyland actually admitted in his column that he’s watched a few episodes of that PBS program. I know I have frequently embarrassed myself with this column, but may the queen smite me herself if I ever sink to those depths.