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LETTER: Downtown cameras will help local government keep citizens safe

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 | 4:04 p.m. CST

On April 6 I will vote "yes" on Proposition 1. While I have always been a proponent of limited government in our daily lives, I feel that the primary role of local government is to ensure its citizens' safety. Last year, I was offended when our City Council denied Karen Taylor the opportunity to reopen the discussion on downtown cameras. As elected representatives, City Councils should be responsive to its constituents.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that what happens on our public streets and sidewalks is not private. Proposition 1 will allow our police chief, Ken Burton, to deploy or move downtown safety cameras for the purpose of enhancing public safety. He has publicly stated that safety cameras have a deterrent effect on crime.

Please join me in voting "yes" on Proposition 1.


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Comments

Glenn Rice March 3, 2010 | 11:52 a.m.

Chief Burton has also publicly stated that he'd rather have another officer than cameras. I agree. Moreover, Burton also admitted that his knowledge of the "deterrent" effect of cameras is based on his "intuition", rather than any actual data regarding their effectiveness. The downtown police unit, on the other hand, has produced a measurable, proven reduction in incidence of crime downtown.

(Report Comment)
Liz Mitchell March 4, 2010 | 12:38 p.m.

Proponents of installing cameras in the District claim it would deter crime. I'm not so sure. Great Britain is the most video-monitored society on the planet and has used surveillance for many years. Despite that, it was recently reported that for every 1000 cameras in Britain, only one crime was solved per year. See the BBC story at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/engla.......

Then consider the Sunshine Laws of Missouri. While private video from a business or resident might be used by the police to pursue criminals and to prosecute a particular crime, the footage can be used for just the one case. A city owned camera's footage, however, must be made available to anyone who requests it and it must continue to be available for years, if not forever.

I support any business or resident who wants cameras on their property and I'm sure most camera owners would cooperate with the police, but I'd be more comfortable shopping or having a bite to eat if I didn't feel "Big Brother" watching me. While I don't harbor paranoid fantasies about our government or about stalkers, either, I'd rather not have footage of me available to anyone who is willing to acquire it.

I have a problem with both the efficacy and privacy issues. I'd like to know if Columbia's downtown crime rate has actually risen. If so, would we not see better results from more officers patrolling the area? Even if we were to commit resources and cede our privacy to surveillance in the District, would there be significant crime reduction?

We all want to be safe. It is all too easy, however, to get swept away after a single incident focuses our attention on something like surveillance cameras. The Adam Taylor incident has been held up as an example of how cameras made the capture of this young man's assailants possible. Perhaps. Identification of several suspects came quickly with the footage, but it was incriminating statements by the suspects that clinched the arrests. The accused assailants were already known to the police. I'm confident that CPD officers would have been completely capable of investigating this assault and apprehending the assailants even without the footage.

Even if the footage did make all the difference in this case, this was still only a single incident. There is no way one can extrapolate and make policy based upon one incident. We are bound to want to "do something about" the perceived "crime problem." Yes, the Adam Taylor assault was a crime. Crime happens and that is why we have police. But, again: has the assault rate in the District been on the rise? Will cameras really make a difference in the rate that crimes are solved? Will the loss of privacy and the potential future use or misuse of footage that must be preserved by law be worth it even if a few more cases were actually to be solved? I think these questions need to be considered.

Myself, I'll be voting against Prop 1!

(Report Comment)
Liz Mitchell March 14, 2010 | 10:01 p.m.

Proponents of cameras in the District claim it will deter crime. Great Britain has been the most video-monitored society on Earth for years. Nevertheless, it turns out that for every 1000 cameras in Britain, only one crime was solved per year. See the BBC story at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/engla.......

We have Sunshine Laws. Police may use private video to solve a crime, but the footage can be used for just the one case. City owned footage, however, becomes part of the public record and must be made available to anyone who requests it and it must continue to be available for years, if not forever.

I support any business or resident who wants cameras on their property. I'm sure most camera owners will cooperate with police. While I don't harbor paranoid fantasies about our government or about stalkers, either, I'd rather not have footage of me available to anyone who is willing to acquire it.

My problem is with both efficacy and privacy issues. I'd like to know if the downtown crime rate has actually risen. If so, would not more officers patrolling the area see better results? Even if we commit resources and cede our privacy to surveillance in the District, would there be significant crime reduction?

We all want to be safe, but it is too easy to get swept away after a single incident. The Adam Taylor case has been held up as an example of how video made the capture of this young man's attackers possible. Perhaps. Identification of several suspects came quickly with the footage, but it was their incriminating statements that clinched the arrests. The accused were already known to the police. I'm confident that CPD officers would have been entirely capable of investigating this assault and apprehending the assailants even without the video.

Even if footage actually made the difference in this case, it was still one incident. We must not extrapolate and make policy based upon a single incident. We're bound to want to "do something about" a perceived "crime problem." Yes, the Taylor assault was a crime. Crime happens and that is why we have police. But, again: has the assault rate in the District been on the rise? Will cameras really make a difference in the rate that crimes are solved? Will the loss of privacy and the potential future use or misuse of footage that must be preserved by law be worth it even if a few more cases were actually to be solved? I think these questions need to be considered.

Some Prop 1 supporters say that we shouldn't expect privacy and that opponents should "get over it." Will Columbia businesses "get over it" if people refuse to have footage of themselves available to anyone who wants it? It will be part of the public record. It will be illegal to not save the footage. Other people will have access to it. I know I will think twice about shopping or dining in the District if surveillance cameras are installed.

I will vote against Prop 1.

(Report Comment)
Liz Mitchell March 14, 2010 | 10:13 p.m.

Whoops! Looks like I repeated myself with an edited paste. Sorry! The cnxn got slow + it looked like there were no comments on this letter.

But there has been an attitude from proponents that it shouldn't bother us to be surveilled when in public. Maybe the term we use should not be privacy. But by being in a large public arena with an ever shifting population at any one time, we should be able to expect a certain type of privacy which might more resemble anonymity. Either way, being part of the public record would make video footage fodder for stalkers and busybodies, whether family, friend, or foe.

Vote "No!" on Prop 1!

(Report Comment)
Dale Jones March 14, 2010 | 10:59 p.m.

VOTE Yes for prop 1. I just saw on TV in LA where from camera's a crime has been committed and the police saw the car involved from the camera's and put the criminals in jail.

If I am not doing anything wrong, I could care less who is watching me.

I think the City is putting camera's on the new additional of the City Hall. If this correct, then we should have camera's downtown too.

Again, vote "yes" for prop 1

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 14, 2010 | 11:26 p.m.

Dale:
Seems to me that Bob McDavid has hitched his wagon to what might be construed as a misappropriation of general funds from the city's coffer.
Apparently "they" propose that these city-paid cameras be limited within the perimeter of "The District." That means that if any "real hot-beds of crime" rear its ugly head in other neighborhoods, wards or business areas, Chief Burton would not be allowed to take this equipment to those much more needed areas, as/and if they arise.
Seems like this proposition is asking all the taxpayers of Columbia to give "The District" some kind of special gift, just because.
Why not consider a more appropriate and less controversial way to do business in "The District?"
http://www.abraxis.com/wdarling/blueprin...
I for one will vote No and vote against Bob McDavid for cow-towing to a special interest group regarding this issue.
I will wait for a better written proposition and a better ordinance to address city-wide crime.
(Whatever happened to Chief Burton's interest in teenage curfews? The warmer weather will certainly impact all of his wards/areas/quadrants. Not just "The District.")

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 15, 2010 | 12:07 a.m.

Dale, it seems to me that any cameras on city hall are protecting the city's property. I have no problems with that. The downtown surveillance cameras proposed by the Special Business District and (some of) the business community are to protect their property using our tax dollars. Why shouldn't they pay for the price of protecting their area instead of demanding that the taxpayers pony up the money? What makes downtown more important than any other section of Columbia? And if I recall the numbers that were discussed at the city council meeting where the initiative petition was sent to the voters, downtown didn't even have the largest proportion of violent crime in Columbia.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 15, 2010 | 12:20 a.m.

Some numbers from the 12/7/09 council meeting where this was discussed (available at
http://www.gocolumbiamo.com/Council/Minu...)

"Ms. Nauser commented that only 16 percent of crime within the City occurred in the downtown per the three month period of crime statistics she had reviewed. She understood the SBD members felt increased graffiti, vandalism and broken windows and the late night bar crowds often getting out of hand necessitated the installation of security cameras, and asked why they believed publicly funded cameras should be located in the downtown when just as much or more crime was happening elsewhere in the community. Ms. Gartner stated the SBD was careful not to make statements about issues outside of the SBD borders. In addition, she thought the public-private partnership between the SBD and City could easily translate to a public-private partnership between a neighborhood association and the City."

"She" in the minutes snippet below again refers to Laura Nauser:

"She referred to crimereports.com and commented that only 16 percent of crime throughout the City occurred in Beat 00, which was the downtown plus some area surrounding it. With regard to assaults, only 9 percent were within the downtown area, and when adjusting the numbers for multiple
reports for the same incident, it was only 7 percent."

(Report Comment)

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