Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cameras Downtown?

Last night’s Council meeting was pretty serious, so not too many light hearted moments. One particular moment was during the camera discussion at the end of the meeting. For all those paying attention who said something approximating “I don’t know if they want to turn us into the Real World Charlottesville?*

Lengthy discussion on cvillenews about the need for cameras versus right to privacy. To be fair, Kevin Lynch did mention that Council would be discussing cameras during the response to the public period of the agenda.

Council agreed to seek proposals for funding and placement of the cameras downtown. The discussion started with the City Manager reiterating some issues outlined in a memo- including how to pay for cameras, possible locations. Ultimately he sought and gained approval by Council to receive bids for specific locations. I apparently missed Hamilton’s initial comments-apologies.

Highlights of the discussion on whether to have cameras on the Mall:
Taliaferro- supports concept, delicate balance, but in the interest of public safety we need to take advantage of technology to prevent attacks.

Norris- Given the discussion at cvillenews, Dave suggested putting the images on the internet so anyone can be watching at anytime. Chief responded that he had a conversation with a local developer about this idea as a way to market the downtown mall, something to consider when developing the use policy for this surveillance (which also has to include, who will access, how long retained, etc.). Chief also mentioned that he has met with a lot of people (12), mostly elderly who are very concerned about being victimized and this is one way to leverage technology to the department’s advantage.

Lynch- concerned – he quoted an article in the Economist regarding cameras in Great Britain but I didn’t catch it, perhaps someone can fill in that blank because people laughed. And then he said something like this “if I feel the need to scratch myself I don’t want everyone to be able to see it.” How we use the technology is key, he wants a strict use policy.

Brown- sees a consensus to move forward, doesnt believe it will prevent crimes, not a whole lot of evidence that there is a preventative aspect to cameras. It merely reassures people that we are doing something. Will it actually help solve crimes- are there examples for which this tool would be useful in crimes that are unsolved? Concerned that we give up our id info so easily. Good evidence that this will do something not just something we are doing, not clear it is worth the personal liberty.

Norris- if he had to prioritize cameras, he would rank cameras as a lower priority and not a stand alone solution. His priorities are 1. police presence 2. neighborhood outreach 3. School Resource Officers.

Kevin- could be moved around, don’t want them everywhere, just some places. He cited his high school where the fear was the bathroom actually had cameras so the students didn’t do anything wrong in there. Additionally, he wants a tight policy document, that commits to prevention rather than reaction.

An aside, but perhaps the crux: Regarding the media- particularly the tv media’s obsession with the ‘surge’ in crime downtown by the roaming packs of teenagers wearing baggy jeans and large white t-shirts. Holly Edwards made the point that the media never seems to balance negative news with positive or other news about African American life in Charlottesville. She pointed to two events this weekend that made very little news but were in fact possibly newsworthy. One was a Father-Son fair at Burley and the other was Parks & Recreation’s “Evening in the Park” at Tonsler Park held on Saturday. Both were incredibly successful and widely attended and were the first time these events happened in this way. The next community gathering is 8/25 from 5:30-9:30 at Washington Park. I am proud the Parks department is investing in this type of community building. I would appreciate it if the MSM would cover such events to lend some balance to the view of our city and its residents. I will be doing a better job with this as well.

*Kendra Hamilton

Update- cvillenew's post on cameras has an insightful comment by the Mayor- and I clarified my post to make his comments more readable.

No comments: