Longo still pushing for Mall cameras

news-camera.jpgThe DP reports that Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo has sent a letter to Downtown Business Association members asking for their support ahead of Monday's Council meeting, when he'll once again ask for $300,000 to have 30 surveillance cameras installed in an around the Mall. Last time Longo made the request, over the summer, Councilors Taliaferro and Hamilton supported the idea, while Lynch, Brown and Norris did not. At the time, Longo sought to address concerns about a crime problem in the Mall area. But is there a crime problem in the Mall area? Check out this crime data and decide for yourself.

Longo says he wants the cameras installed to catch crooks, but could they also be used to monitor cops? The plan calls for 10 cameras on Water Street, where a recently alleged case of police brutality took place. So, how might the cameras be used in a case like that? Would the public have access to the cameras to monitor the police?

14 comments

"Not to mention the room and staff to watch all the TV's 24/7."
Rob, from the proposal submitted to the City Council:

"Cameras will not be routinely monitored under normal operating conditions, but may be monitored periodically during special events anticipated to attract large numbers of people; at times and locations that have previously experienced criminal violationsactivity; and during such other times and at such locations as determined by the Chief of Police, or his designee, as are necessary for legitimate safety and security purposes. Routine monitoring may also occur when necessary for training, maintenance or audit purposes."

While I agree that you are obviously signing on for more than merely the initial outlay in purchase of equipment, when a proposal such as this comes up, the labor involved in monitoring is actually already planned to be kept at a minimum. Which reduces operation costs, decreases privacy concerns and (with time) the deterrent effect should become obvious.

I like your incentive plan idea, but I imagine that private cameras would be less reliable and create footage with much more significant evidentiary concerns. Time and money spent on public upkeep would be swapped for time, research, etc. required to prove private shopkeepers maintined necessary repair schedules, checks and adherence to legal evidentiary standards. Not that it can't be done, but I foresee problems you wouldn't have with a public system run by law enforcement.

Pull the scrubber by the green bar near the bottom to about 1 hour 49 minutes into the meeting to get to that point. They explain the revisions in the way the cameras will be used.If you go http://charlottesville.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=149 you can hear the discussion Council had with the police department at its meeting on December 3, 2007.

The violent crimes at UVA occur frequently on the Corner, Rugby Road, 14th Street, 15th Street, 17th Street, Virginia Avenue, Chancellor Street, Gordon Avenue, Grady Avenue, and JPA. That's why there are more city police assigned there than any other section of town, including downtown, Tenth and Page, Fifth and Dice, or Avon Street.
Today's cameras can be montiored on one screen with today's webcam-like software. To get a closer look, the monitor just clicks the large thumbnail. There is also software that can be used to capture video and save it, depending on the video's format.

The police have no expectation of privacy in public(just like anyone else). Videotape EVERYTHING they do. What's good for the goose is good for the gander yes? Has anyone even considered what an "ex post facto" debacle this could become?

Cletus, do you have any idea how many people nationwide are arrested every year for taping cops in action? Of course it's legal, but they have the power to mess with people who do it. And they do very often.

I doubt these cameras or recordings would have benefited Silva and Austin at all. And I can tell you why. In 1997 I requested copies of 911 tapes in the case of a malicious and premeditated police wrongdoing. The request was in writing and receipt was acknowledged by Margie Thomas, a management employee of the 911 center. After a long delay in producing them to me, Margie Thomas explained that having to copy the tapes of the balcony collapse at UVA caused the delay. She promised the tapes to me by the following Friday. Long story short.... on the Friday I and my attorney were to receive the tapes, I received a certified letter in the mail from 911 claiming the tapes were accidentally destroyed. Yeah, sure they were. Had the police wrongdoing case ever went to court, we had found a 911 employee who would testify under oath that he was given 911 tapes and told to cut them into pieces no longer than one inch. This at the same time the tapes I requested were supposedly accidentally destroyed. They think people are stupid. It's too bad this police wrongdoing case never went to court, the media could have had a field day reporting on the obvious coverups and lies.

Trust me, don't ever assume the cameras on the mall will benefit any citizen in allegations against city employees. Especially police officers.

The only thing the camers will do is waste 300 grand now, which costs an additional 15 grand a year in lost interst (if they put it in the bank instead), but will also require probably another 150 grand a year in maintainance through repairs and record keeping. Not to mention the room and staff to watch all the TV's 24/7.

a better alternative would be to offer a tax credit to businesses who sign up and buy their own private systems that record a 7 day cycle of hard drive recording (about 2k installed and no maintanence) these would probably solve 95% of the coverage for 60 grand and no ongoing costs.

Be very careful about supporting infrastructure that needs ongoing maintance and support. (sort of like putting in a pool)

Public security video is becoming widely accepted in courts nowadays. The deterent affect is a great one.

There has never been a government program that did not escalate to cost more and more as time went on.

Plus with cell phone videos so popular the security camera is becoming obsolete anyway.

The real answer is to simply be as harsh as possible to REAL crimes that occur (as opposed to wandering drunks) so that thugs stay away. When the thugs know the mall is off limits they will stay away. That is one reason why there are so few real violent crimes at UVA. They KNOW that it would never be tolerated.

Liberty sometime comes with a price. When it comes to security of the citizens then it must me an option. You have to see how and why it is used. In this case it to protect the innocent without really being 'Big Brother'.
One comment about cell phone videos being so popular the security camera is becoming obsolete anyway. Who is going to be thinking of taking out their cell phone when they are being attacked. Let's see ...excuse me sir let me video tape this mugging or can one of your friends do it ?

It's important that the NSA and other national security agencies have a live digital view of as many places as possible. Chief Longo is only doing what countless other law enforcement agencies have done-- enhancing surveillance capabilities supposedly as the next logical step in our war on crime and terror. It doesn't mean we are safer however, but it does confirm our fears. I for one will not feel comfortable under the watchful eye of the government as I attempt to enjoy a glass of wine, or as I write some words on the Free Speech Wall. Chief Longo should be voted out for this intrusion into our civic freedom space. Of course crime will occur, eventually a serious crime will occur-- then the surveillance addicts will trot out this proposal again and in the hysteria of the moment they will take another bit of our freedom.

The cameras are not about "these cases" they are about the proper and most effective use of tax dollars. Getting the biggest "bang for the buck". It is also about the inhibiting effect on free expression that cameras have. I am assuming 300K to start and 100K a year to monitor (counting training, officers, archiving, monitoring etc) I then think about where else that money could be spent to prevent NET crime. It is my opinion that when you put up cameras downtown you will simply move crime elsewhere in the city and not reduce the overall amount of crimes commited citywide. So lets think of all of the things we could do with that 300k and another 100k a year thereafter to either get criminals off the street or convince them to not do the crime in the first place. A few security cameras and diligent people with video phones could probably do 99% of what the 300k would do. That is my opinion anyway.

You said:

One comment about cell phone videos being so popular the security camera is becoming obsolete anyway. Who is going to be thinking of taking out their cell phone when they are being attacked. Let's see ¢Ã¢â??¬Šexcuse me sir let me video tape this mugging or can one of your friends do it ?

I ask you... ever heard of a little web site called "youtube"

I think the point was that there are often witness to crimes and with a cell phone/video a possibilty it has a deterrent effect. It also IS accepted as evidence in trials.

If Mr.Diggler had researched these cases he would had found out there
were no witnesses. So again I contend cell phones in most cases wouldn't help and wouldn't be a determent in future crimes. And yes I know of and use that little web site called ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??youtube¢Ã¢â??¬. Completely useless in this case.

Here's the Daily Progress update on the cameras as of Monday's Council meeting: http://dailyprogress.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=CDP%2FMGArticle%2FCDP_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173353725719&path=!news