Lawrence City Commission to discuss adding cameras downtown

photo by: Richard Gwin

In this file photo from March 23, 2016, a city employee installs a temporary surveillance camera near Ninth and Massachusetts streets. Temporary cameras are sometimes installed to oversee areas where large crowds are expected, such as Final Four celebrations downtown, though those cameras are removed after events.

The Lawrence City Commission will soon hear more about the possibility of adding security cameras downtown.

During the commission’s meeting Monday, Commissioner Leslie Soden requested that the commission review the possibility of adding mounted cameras downtown to increase security. Soden said she understood that the commission would need a lot of information first.

“I absolutely understand there are privacy issues, that’s why I’m not just demanding that we add some,” Soden said.

The possibility of security cameras downtown was discussed a few years ago, and it has come up again in local conversations following a shooting in October on Massachusetts Street that killed three people and injured two others.

City Manager Tom Markus told the commission that he has worked in cities that used such cameras and that there were multiple issues to consider. Those include concerns about privacy, as well as how the camera footage would be used and retained.

“You have to understand that this is an issue that, across the country, is going to create some dialogue,” Markus said.

But Markus said his experience working in jurisdictions that used both mounted cameras and police body cameras has also shown them to be useful. He said there were two sides to the issue and that the commission would hear them both.

“Having solved cases with them, I know the value of them,” Markus said. “I also know the concerns of those individuals that would be concerned with the daily goings-on that would be captured on camera.”

Because of the issue’s complexity, Markus suggested that the city’s legal and police departments research the topic and bring information to an upcoming commission study session. Commissioners voted unanimously to do so, and the topic will be scheduled for review at an upcoming meeting.