COLUMBIA — Monday's City Council meeting could result in another proposal to install surveillance cameras downtown.
Karen Taylor and her son, Adam Taylor, have been gearing up for the meeting in hope of persuading the council to re-propose putting portable cameras around Broadway and other spots downtown.
The family's interest in the issue arose after Adam Taylor was attacked and robbed in the Tenth Street parking garage on June 6. The incident was caught on the surveillance cameras in the garage and led to the suspects' arrests. Since then, Karen Taylor said her family has been trying to work on new ways to help keep the community safer, starting with adding cameras downtown.
"Right after the crime occurred, it was clear to us that, 'Hey, we need to re-address this,'" Karen Taylor said. "We were very fortunate our son did not sustain any serious injuries, and we felt we needed to do something constructive."
Karen Taylor said adding portable cameras would be just one step in a "collection of things that need to happen to reduce crime."
The Taylor family attended the Special Business District board meeting Tuesday to gauge support for the camera project. When the camera proposition was first brought up, the SBD supported it and asked City Council to fund half the cost while it pays the other half of the $50,000 project.
SBD board member John Ott said he thought there was enough support for the camera proposal to pass the first time.
"My understanding was that the evening was not a public hearing about cameras, but suddenly it was brought up and not approved," Ott said.
Karen Taylor spoke to many of the council members about addressing the proposal at the council meeting. One of the members, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, said public discussion on the topic is welcome.
"I am more than willing to bring it up for public discussion," Nauser said. "But it doesn't necessarily mean I'm for having government-controlled portable cameras."
When the bill was proposed in April, only one council member, Mayor Darwin Hindman, voted for it, with some of the other council members citing concerns about invading citizens' privacy.
Nauser explained the reservations she had about placing portable cameras downtown.
"I am always very cautious when people give up their freedoms and liberties in the name of safety," she said. "It's a slippery slope."
Nauser did express her concern over the parking garage incident and explained that if a curfew were in place, some of the youths involved in the incident might not have been at the garage at all.
"I sympathize with the incident and I'm hoping some of the new initiations by the police department will curb some of the problems we've been having downtown," she said. "If a curfew were in place, it would have been much better for those children to have a violation of curfew than the trouble they're in now, assault of an individual. But now we'll never know."
Ott said the Taylor incident might influence the council to take another look at the camera proposal.
"I think the incident has given pause for people to maybe re-look at the use of cameras, but I don't have a good idea about the support for it outside the SBD," Ott said. "I've been a supporter of it for some time, and I think it's a tool that the police department needs to do an effective job in the district."
Dan Viets, American Civil Liberties Union Mid-Missouri Chapter president, expressed outrage during the proposal's initial hearing, and still thinks the proposal is "creepy."
"As the president of ACLU Mid-Missouri Chapter, our organization is very strongly opposed to the cameras," Viets said. "I'm not saying it's unconstitutional, but it's a horrible invasion of privacy that is not justified."
Viets made it clear that the cameras were "ugly and intended to be intimidating in an otherwise beautiful downtown area," yet he stressed the importance of keeping cameras in parking garages.
"We're not asking cameras to be taken out of garages; those are high-risk areas," he said. "But we don't need to turn our downtown into a fort. This is something a police state would do and we don't need to engage in that, or surrender our civil liberties."