Archive for Friday, June 1, 2012

Town Talk: City to consider allowing law enforcement to install video surveillance downtown; the British are coming, the British are coming to downtown on Saturday

June 1, 2012


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.


woodscolt 5 years, 9 months ago

"The cameras at the 12 intersections currently aren’t used by the Police Department — they’re in place for traffic purposes"

The excuse for putting these cameras in place was disguised as helping make traffic safer by monitoring the red lights . Once in place, I said the problem is that they would eventually be used to spy on the public. I guess, implied by this article, I was right. We were assured that this was not the case. Now, it seems it is the case as I suspected it would. Big Brother on the move.

April Fleming 5 years, 9 months ago

You can't really "spy" on someone in public. If you do it on Mass St, that's about as public as she gets.

woodscolt 5 years, 9 months ago

point being that a major campaign was waged to assure that the red light cameras were not to be used for spying on the private sector, just to reduce traffic accidents. Now they forgot and are at least putting it on the table.

Putting lights on mass street and then..... How about the people that live on mass street. The top of their lease probably doesn't say, " Oh by the way now that you live in the public, don't worry about that camera that is pointed at your window. "it's really pointed at mass street."

It is a very slippery slope as the red light cameras prove out. once you give up right to privacy, its gone forever.

sleepy33 5 years, 9 months ago

Did you make some kind of a bet with someone about how many times you could mention Downton Abbey in one column?

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 9 months ago

No, but I didn't realize there were people who were willing to bet on that. Thanks, Chad

kufan1146 5 years, 9 months ago

Looking forward to some fish and chips at Queen Lizzys tomorrow!

gccs14r 5 years, 9 months ago

Instead of putting the cameras on Mass, they should put them on the alleys on either side. Where it's dangerous is where the people aren't.

woodscolt 5 years, 9 months ago

If safety were the sole purpose for the cameras this would be a good point.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 9 months ago

Eventually there won't be a single safe place to deal with nose goblins or adjust one's drawers outside the home.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 9 months ago

It's called kleenex and there are public waste disposal bins. I don't know why you couldn't adjust your drawers, but why you would bring them downtown to do it is a bafflement to me. I know you have your reasons.

irvan moore 5 years, 9 months ago

well, if they can't attract retirees it's nice they can get the british to come

somedude20 5 years, 9 months ago

Lawrence will be more like Britain if they load up on all of the cameras. Just about all of London is wired due to the hooligans causing fights after hitting the bars.

Mark Kostner 5 years, 9 months ago

Is there a real problem on Mass right now? Is this a dangerous and deadly street? Or is Uncle Sam waving cash at the police department to entice it to spy on its citizens. We might as well celebrate the queen as we have given back all our liberty and much more that we got from the American Revolution.

pizzapete 5 years, 9 months ago

Agreed. Maybe after we become accustomed to this intrusion in our lives the government can provide a drone to fly over the city to take care of anyone who appears to be speeding, littering, not using a turn signal or seat belt, etc. We need to stop feeding this monster, big brother has gotten too big already.

jjt 5 years, 9 months ago

We will be doing our Saturday Radio show live with the Brit, Jeremy Taylor on KLWN 1320 from 9-11 come and say Hello and celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Jeremy will be translating Brit speak into American and 'aving a chat about the festivities with those who are there.
Come and have a cuppa and a chat on the Radio.

RichardMiller 5 years, 9 months ago

CC Cameras would be a waste of money. Just ask London. It has over 10,000 of them! Besides, most citizens have cameras on them now to capture crime as it happens.

Eugehne Normandin 5 years, 9 months ago

How about law enforcement and real punishment for law breakers on mass st or maybe plea bargains are better.

woodscolt 5 years, 9 months ago

If you have a smart phone, credit cards, twitter and or facebook, a computer, on and on, you have essentially put a camera on almost any and everything you do. Cameras on Mass would just be another compliment to the long lost concept of privacy.

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