Columbia City Council to hear downtown camera report Monday

Saturday, September 18, 2010 | 7:41 p.m. CDT; updated 10:46 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 20, 2010

COLUMBIA — After months of deliberation, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton has submitted the Downtown Safety Summit's recommendations on downtown camera placement to the Columbia City Council.

Burton proposed cameras at four locations:

Camera companies

These are the five companies detailed in Columbia Police Department intern Renee Sinclair's downtown camera report.

  • VisionAble Surveillance Solutions. This Chesterfield-based company says it tailors its surveillance systems to the needs of clients. Commercial businesses, municipalities and private business owners use its services. Its systems are capable of observing, recording and storing data, which would be stored at VisionAble’s monitoring center and in the camera. CPD could also access footage from a remote location if needed. Cameras cost between $6,000 and $8,000, depending on the model.
  • Q-Star Technology. Q-Star, of Torrance, Calif., provides self-contained crime deterrence cameras called FlashCAMs. Commercial companies use these cameras to deter specific crimes, such as vandalism and illegal dumping. FlashCAMs do not record video, but they can take a series of photographs when a motion device is activated. They can be fitted with an audio message that would go off when the motion sensor is activated, another feature meant to deter crime. These models run at about $5,000 to $6,000 per unit.
  • Avrio RMS Group. This company provides digital surveillance cameras called PODSS, portable devices that contain a camera model based on the client’s needs. Extra available features include  blue strobe lights and custom logos. The city would be responsible for storing footage. Each unit costs between $13,000 and $21,000 based on the client’s specifications, including camera model and additional features.
  • 2mCCTV. This is a Web-based company that provides closed-circuit television cameras. For Columbia, Sinclair proposed a permanent dome camera, which would be placed in a fixed location. It is a vandal- and weather-proof camera with pan, tilt and zoom capabilities. Images would be stored on a memory card and could be downloaded to any computer. The dome camera model would cost about $1,000  but could be purchased at a lower price from an outside vendor.
  • SkyCop. SkyCop is a mobile camera unit that could include a surveillance camera and a trailer unit that could be used for special events. The units can be elevated up to 45 feet and can use either a power source or solar power. The video is transmitted to a client workstation. A SkyCop unit with two cameras costs $27,336 per year and the client workstation is $4,040 for a one-year contract. Units can be relocated for $890.

Source: Downtown Surveillance Camera Project report

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The proposal's fiscal impact has yet to be determined because the council has not decided on camera models.

CPD intern Renee Sinclair was given the task of finding models that fit the needs of the city and business owners while taking cost into consideration. She narrowed her list to five companies:

“The criteria which were provided to me included real-time monitoring, evidentiary quality images, conspicuous (placement) and capable of storing recordings for 60 days,” Sinclair said in her report. “I also took into consideration portability, manpower, budget and future needs.”

Sinclair concluded that VisionAble Surveillance Solutions would best fit the council’s requirements, and that 2mCCTV would meet business owners’ needs and be the most economical solution.

VisionAble, a Chesterfield-based company, sells cameras capable of observing, recording and storing data. The cameras could be moved to different locations. The data would also be stored at VisionAble’s monitoring center, and police would be able to access it from a remote location if needed. The company’s cameras cost between $6,000 and $8,000, according to Sinclair's report.

2mCCTV is a Web-based company that provides closed-circuit dome cameras, which would be placed in a fixed location. Images are stored on a memory card and can be downloaded to any computer. These cameras run about $1,000 each, according to the report.

Burton’s report also offered other recommendations from the Downtown Safety Summit, including increased downtown geographic policing, better lighting in alleyways, enhanced public transportation downtown at night and installing emergency call boxes downtown.

The council will consider Burton's downtown camera report, as well as funding allocation, at its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 701 E. Broadway.

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Ray Shapiro September 19, 2010 | 3:40 a.m.

If city monies are going towards these "safety" cameras I hope The District will return the favor by allowing the Chief to occasionaly move a few of these devices to "crime hot-spots" as they pop up throughout other areas of Columbia.
Afterall, many of The District's customers come from areas outside of downtown and I would think that they deserve some safety as well.

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