Here’s where public cameras are keeping watch in downtown Lawrence
A handful of city-owned cameras are positioned to record images of downtown Lawrence — including a video camera on the Community Building that captured October’s triple homicide unfolding at 11th and Massachusetts streets.
I asked the city last week for the locations of all city owned cameras positioned downtown, but with winter weather overwhelming the traffic department in particular, officials noted, I didn’t get the answer in time to include in Sunday’s story about Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson’s take on downtown security cameras (Branson says he supports adding more of them because they help solve and prosecute crimes). I did receive the downtown camera information from the city this week, and wanted to share it.
According to city communications director Porter Arneill:
• The city’s traffic division has two traffic cameras downtown, the one at 11th and Massachusetts plus one on top of City Hall at Sixth and Massachusetts streets.
• The parks and recreation department has three cameras on the exterior of the Community Building at 115 W. 11th St. Those monitor the building entrances and the public parking lot adjacent to the building.
• The traffic division also has cameras in the New Hampshire Street, Vermont Street and Riverfront Plaza parking garages.
The police department puts up temporary surveillance cameras for certain events where large crowds are expected, we’ve previously reported. And, of course, many privately owned downtown businesses have their own surveillance cameras, and routinely share footage with law enforcement as needed.
Evidence leading to the arrest of three men in connection with the Oct. 1 shootings that killed three and injured two others downtown only came out publicly in recent weeks, and we now know that public camera footage was a key part of it. Branson said if it weren’t for that footage, police may not have been able to make arrests in the case. The three defendants are awaiting trial.
The City Commission plans to discuss public cameras downtown at an upcoming study session. The commission is awaiting a report on the issue, which commissioners ordered in January from the city’s legal and police departments.
Privacy concerns remain part of that issue.
In 2012 the former Lawrence police chief made a formal proposal to install public surveillance cameras on Massachusetts Street and had secured grant money to do it. The City Commission said it would not permit the cameras until a policy for their use was developed. After public forums to gather input — which brought out critics including the American Civil Liberties Union — that downtown camera plan fizzled out.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct which public camera captured the shootings at 11th and Massachusetts streets.
— I’m the Journal-World’s public safety reporter. Reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 785-832-7187. I’m also on Twitter, @saramarieshep.