Archive for Tuesday, June 5, 2012

City wants policy for downtown cameras

ACLU, residents express concern about potential misuse of surveillance devices

June 5, 2012


Police-operated surveillance cameras will be coming to Massachusetts Street, but not before Lawrence city commissioners approve a detailed policy on how the cameras will be used.

City commissioners at their weekly meeting unanimously agreed to allow the Lawrence Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department to use $46,800 in federal grant money to purchase security cameras and related equipment. But after hearing concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union and several local residents, commissioners directed staff members that none of the new cameras be installed until clear policies for their use are established.

“The public obviously has a right to know and we have an obligation to show how this footage is going to be stored and how it is going to be used,” said City Commissioner Mike Amyx, who is a downtown business owner.

But commissioners also stressed they think the cameras can be significant crime-fighting tools. Commissioners said the potential seemed high that police officers could access video footage to help solve crimes committed in the downtown area.

Several members of the public, though, expressed concerns the cameras could be misused. Gary Brunk, executive director of the Kansas and Western Missouri ACLU, said many cameras are so sophisticated that lenses could allow police officers to zoom in to see what an individual is reading while sitting on a bench along Massachusetts Street.

“It is prudent to ask whether we want to live in a city where residents are constantly watched by authorities,” Brunk said. “I don’t think anyone is proposing to do that in Lawrence today, but history suggests that once video surveillance systems are installed, they are expanded.”

Police Chief Tarik Khatib said he expects the grant will allow two or three cameras to be bought, in addition to computer servers and fiber-optic cable to make the cameras usable. Khatib said he does not envision having an employee monitor the footage constantly.

Instead, he said, the cameras likely would be monitored during large events such as parades and community celebrations downtown. He also hopes eventually to have a system in place that would allow footage to be recorded and kept for about 48 hours in order for officers to review the tapes, if needed as part of an investigation.

The use of the cameras downtown did draw support from several downtown business owners. Downtown Lawrence Inc. sent a letter a supporting installation of the cameras, saying public safety in the downtown area is of “the upmost concern” to the association.

City officials have estimated it may be in late 2012 before the cameras are installed.

Mayor Bob Schumm, who is also a downtown business owner, said in addition to passing a policy on their use, he was in favor of notifying the public of the specific locations where the cameras would be installed. Those locations haven’t yet been determined.


buffalo63 5 years, 10 months ago

How are these cameras any different than cameras in a business. You walk into or by a store, you may be on camera. Our business has a sign (if anyone cared to notice) which states video and audio is being used. I have no problem being "filmed" while out and about. ATMs have cameras. There are already traffic cameras. I sometimes see vehicles (that I recognize) going across the bridges or moving down Mass. st from the City Hall camera. I would hope that cameras would be placed in areas that crimes might occur, such as alleys.

notorious_agenda 5 years, 10 months ago

The blaring difference is that a private business doesn't have a massive database of government data to cross reference with scanned information from video footage.

pinecreek 5 years, 10 months ago

Don't want to deal with cameras in public areas? Stay home.

notorious_agenda 5 years, 10 months ago

pinecreek, Neither I or OonlyBonly said anything implying whether we want to deal with cameras in public areas. Every one of us deals with them every single day. Buffalo63 asked "How are these cameras any different?", Your response only diverts from the discussion of the difference between private vs. government operated cameras, and your comment has no debatable value in this particular discussion.

Waddetreestudio 5 years, 10 months ago

Smart move for the city, since there is false reports From police calls concerning downtown its time expose True criminals with factual evidence which is constutional Sphere in the citys perimeter of ethical justice.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 10 months ago

When did the LJW boards turn into Poetry Night?

Terry Sexton 5 years, 10 months ago

Didn't you get the memo? It's replacing Snarky Comment Days.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 10 months ago

Just wait until the Sanctimonious Blowhard Parade in August. You'll see this place come alive!!! :)

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 months ago

That is private business using their profit to monitor their business.

Slowly but surely the local police departments are becoming militarized which is a hot topic on radio news. Not on my tax dollars please.

Sgt. Shamar Thomas, a U.S. marine at the Occupy Wall Street protests, was so appalled by the behavior of the NYPD that he loudly confronted a group of 30 officers, shouting at them:

"This is not a war zone. These are unarmed people. It does not make you tough to hurt these people. If you want to go fight, go to Iraq or Afghanistan. Stop hurting these people, man, why y’all doing this to our people? Why are y’all gearing up like this is war? There are no bullets flying out here."

Police repression in America is hardly new. Low-income neighborhoods, communities of color and political activists have always had to deal with unneccassary shows of force by some police officers. Thanks to a populist uprising threatening a status quo that benefits the top tier of American society to the detriment of the bottom 99 percent, many Americans for the first time are witnessing the U.S. police state in action.

As Occupation Spreads, So Does the Police State

A clear pattern has emerged in the response to occupations throughout the country, from San Francisco to Denver, involving midnight raids by heavily armed paramilitary units of riot police deployed to enforce park curfews.

William McCauley 5 years, 10 months ago

If the morons at city hall didn't have a hand out from "US" the us tax payers, and had to fund and pay for this crap out of local monies, you can bet your backside there would be no cameras installed... but because it's "free US gov." money, better get it while we can and get some new toys before the hand out is over.

The is biggest problem in our country today, spending piles of money on crap we don't really need, like two 47K cameras on Mass. st. or the billions on the "wars", war on drugs, war on terrorist & guys in the middle east we just don't like, anymore.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 10 months ago

The use of the cameras downtown did draw support from several downtown business owners. Downtown Lawrence Inc. sent a letter a supporting installation of the cameras, saying public safety in the downtown area is of “the upmost concern” to the association. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ If the downtown merchants desire this added level of security, then let them pay for it. Why should the city provide this for them when all the places on South Iowa, if they desire the extra security, pay for their own? The DLA is part of the good ole boys network and should be defunded.

Anthony Mall 5 years, 10 months ago

Or billions keeping able body Americans sitting around instead of working... European nations, Canada, and Asian countries have camera systems everywhere!!! I don't see anyone complaining... Your on camera an average of 60 times a day anyway... Most major downtown areas have a camera system, stadiums, power and light district, highways, hospitals, schools and the big scary guys in Washington can get a hold of any of them... Almost every inch of campus is covered with camera's and I don't hear anyone up in arms... Your already on camera and your paying for it... This just brings Lawrence up to date with other cities...

BlackVelvet 5 years, 10 months ago

Often times when a crime occurs, people ask why the Police can't catch whoever did it. Having cameras downtown, and used responsibly, can provide the Police with a "witness" which may help solve some of those crimes. I understand crime in parking lots at KU is down a lot since they got cameras. Wait until the Police adopt a policy for use of the cameras and the data they collect, and voice your concerns to city hall then.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 10 months ago

"It's getting to where there will soon be no safe place to deal with nose goblins or adjust your tackle" - Snap

more true every day

Shane Garrett 5 years, 10 months ago

$46,800 in federal grant money is economic stimulus for everyone involved in the project. Dear Government: please grant me some money so I can pay for things I need. Oh, Government won't you by me a color TV, dialing for dollars is trying to reach me...
But, hey if they are giving it away some one will grab it. My tax dollars at work again.

John Hamm 5 years, 10 months ago

Bear in mind - Public area, over 18, no expectation of privacy, take the pic....... Too bad the Police will want to cross reference, use iris identification and half a dozen others technologies I don't know about with the cameras.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 10 months ago

How many times have you heard: "Now that we have this, we can do this" and the beast continues to grow.

I am not against the cameras, but it will grow into a full time employee, then a small office, then a stand alone building, maybe even include drones as they are in the surveillance business.

Just look at what is happening with the new homeless shelter. Get your foot in the door and then cry for funding. The empT is a great example, now that we have the buses, we need a maintenance facility.

bad_dog 5 years, 10 months ago

"...but it will grow into a full time employee, then a small office, then a stand alone building..."

Probably need to plan for installation of a multi-denominational chapel as well...

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm inclined to agree. I don't have an issue with a couple cameras (except when they cost $48,000) but I don't like that it's just another step toward big brother.

Let's run some cost/benefit analysis and see what is gained by installing this pricey duo. We should not forget that $48,000 is the INITIAL cost. Almost certainly whatever private company is contracted to do the work will come up with more unexpected costs to jack up the price since it's free money anyway. Then there will be maintenance costs, training costs to teach someone to operate them, updates, etc.

Benefits....well, maybe police could watch for DUI's from the comfort of an air-conditioned office. How many serious crimes occur on the middle of Mass?

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

Sorry, replace $48,000 with $46,800. For a minute I thought they were expensive!

lgreen17 5 years, 10 months ago

I was one of the concerned public who gave comments. The "free money" will just become a budget item next year when the cameras have to be replaced. This is exactly what happened with the "free" money they got for in-car cameras. Now we are being asked to pay for replacements. There's nothing free. BTW, we are also going to pay for officers to sit on at a desk watching the cameras. No one thinks about the cost of that either.

Elizabeth Stancliffe 5 years, 10 months ago

Sounds like a stupid waste of money. they can keep the footage for 48 hours? Doesn't sound like it will do much good.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 10 months ago

Google "cv dazzle" for helpful tips on not being seen.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm also pretty sure the sales pitch on the Farmland site was as a business park. "Biomass" is basically decomposing garbage and animal excrement. Solar isn't going to generate much electricity. If these technologies were worth pursuing you'd see the utilities investing in them.

pizzapete 5 years, 10 months ago

We as a city need to decide who we want to spy on and who has access to this information. Should we spy on the people that are outside smoking at the Free State Brewery, the people that hang out at the Replay at 2:00 am, the people that listen to music at the Granada or the Bottleneck, the people that protest at the Courthouse or at Southpark? Who should have access to this info? Should my wife or employer be able to watch how much I drink or who I talk with while I'm outside at one of the downtown bars? Are we going to limit it to only 2 cameras? Should we set up a checkpoint at 11th and at 6th where everyone must show a picture ID before they can go downtown?

KansasPerson 5 years, 10 months ago

'Downtown Lawrence Inc. sent a letter a supporting installation of the cameras, saying public safety in the downtown area is of “the upmost concern” to the association.'

Is that an actual quote from the letter? "Upmost" should be "utmost."

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

how about a policy on basketball tickets

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

But, seriously, the public should have access to the tapes and feeds. If the cameras catch police misconduct the tapes should be available to the victim.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 months ago

Has Lawrence become unsafe to raise a family? That's what this spy apparatus is telling Lawrence,Ks.

These cameras won't stop crime on Vermont,Mass St,New Hampshire,New York,Inverness,Kentucky or at 6th and Kasold.

If there are terrorist cells in Lawrence why not infiltrate instead of doing as GW Bush did which was nothing.

I say forget the spy gear,assault rifles,ICBM's and tanks.

Jay Lovett 5 years, 10 months ago

This will end up badly. In the last year our cops have proven the dishonesty in their ranks. In the last year they have also been approved for extra cars, officers, riot gear, AUTOMATIC WEAPONS!, and now cameras to film everyone for their 'safety'. Watch out next time you want to peacefully object to a city ordinance or demonstrate against the government. These are our RIGHTS! They are arming for a battle and they will be the ones to start it. When they cross the line and we try to exercise our rights we will be filmed, identified and dealt with.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 10 months ago

The hyperbole stream is at flood stage today.

Joe Hyde 5 years, 10 months ago

I hope the system's price tag includes a number of inert, dummy cameras that can be used as "window dressing" while the real cameras are functioning at a predicted trouble spot.

Lots of really nasty, violent and frightening assaults and confrontations have happened in downtown Lawrence in the last 10 years. Some involving late-night risks such as serious assault rifle full-auto bursts sweeping downtown blocks full of people?

It's not every downtown merchant's responsibility to expand their business-focused surveillance to encompass city sidewalks, city parking lots and city alleys; it's the city's obligation now that good technology is available to help with the job.

I'm for improving the city's interior defense. But of course, once bought the cameras could be put elsewhere for surveillance anywhere, anytime. Good tool to have for PDs interested in, say, catching burglars who were earlier identified as strong suspects.

avarom 5 years, 10 months ago

The camera's are used to catch all you criminals on your cell phone while driving...then you get a nice big ticket in the mail, stating the Fine you have to pay.....Big K is watching You, the cell phone bad

funkdog1 5 years, 10 months ago

Why can't we have a couple of cops walking the beat downtown at night? Especially on the weekends?

Sunny Parker 5 years, 10 months ago

'grant'. enough said! The City and Fed Govt has just about 'granted' me out of my house!

ksgardener 5 years, 10 months ago

Footage? I doubt they will use film so footage probably is not the correct term in the 21st century. Video,clips, mpeg anything but footage.

Liberty_Or_Death 5 years, 10 months ago

Problems all solved, create a local civilian watchdog with equal access to the cameras so that we may monitor those mismonitoring ourselves... Why is it I see public servants blatantly violate laws on a weekly basis, but can't give them a ticket!?

Liberty_Or_Death 5 years, 10 months ago

Does anyone know what year the LPD removed the honorable "Protect & Serve" decals from their vehicles or when we the people lost the right to harm non, contribute positively to society, and do as you will rights!?

Kate Rogge 5 years, 10 months ago

I think having cameras trained on pedestrians - who are just walking along and minding our own business - is morally wrong for us to do.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 10 months ago

There is no expectation of privacy on a public street

pti3 5 years, 10 months ago

This is the second time the ljworld has misrepresented the events at the city commission meeting last Tuesday on issues involving cameras downtown. To clarify, the commission has NOT approved the purchase nor installation of cameras downtown--not yet anyway. The commission approved the Police Chief to apply for a grant because the deadline for application is apparently the end of June. There was plenty of opposition by the public at the meeting,and no public speakers in support of police surveillance cameras downtown-- just a letter from businesses downtown in support.
The commission stated they did not realize anyone would be upset by surveillance cameras downtown which is why it wasn't announced in a way where the public would have a chance to oppose it. They decided to allow the chief to apply for the grant because of the timeline - to secure the money IN CASE cameras are approved. The commission said they would like regulations on how the data is used BEFORE approval of cameras downtown. They also agreed there should be Public Meetings before approval also. I urge anyone opposed to this to be at the city commission meetings. On privacy and cameras, there are many communities who are trying to stop the cameras - a quick look at aclu sites for Chicago, California, Ohio and many more paint an ominous picture. Also, on privacy issues, Daniel Solove, professor of law at George Washington University, wrote a book, Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, exerpt found at link below:

avarom 5 years, 10 months ago

After your Camera's get approved... the next step is to start laying off the policmen, for if they have the cameras...there is no need for that many policeman on a force. The camera's will pick up you citizens running through red lights, turning on a red when your not suppose to, jay-walking, illegal U turn, talking on their cell phone while driving, not making a complete stop, or stopping over the white lines.... etc....the city starts combining the police station, fire stations, and even the post offices....just to save salary revenue and pension money...The Question is ......Who took it All In the First Place?? This same issue happened in California......and they are still combining police and fire stations. Forcing people to retire, with lower pension, then they promised 10 years ago!!! Pathetic but True!!

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