Thursday will be an interesting day at the St. Petersburg City Council Public Safety and Infrastructure meeting. The Police department will be responding to a request that they establish a plan to utilize surveillance cameras.
They are also due to show off a video surveillance unit, built in a truck donated in September 2011 by the Brinks Company.
Let's hope Chief Chuck Harmon shows up for this meeting. In fact Mayor Bill Foster should order him to be there and answer some of the committee's serious questions. Harmon is available less and less leaving the mayor to twist in the wind and City Council with no answers.
Word is Chief Harmon wants to start using video surveillance downtown before going to the major crime hot spots. Problem is he has had cameras downtown for almost two years.
The Police department has had access to the cameras at Williams Park, Fossil Park, Lake Vista Park, the Marina and the Port, the DOT cameras on the interstate and some cameras in the local schools.
There is no plan?
Why are we just now getting around to figuring out how to use them?
As far as the mobile video surveillance unit is concerned, they have had the truck since September 2011. They had a preliminary plan to equip the truck. I know, I designed it.
They have not started equipping the truck. They are just now getting around to asking for the money to complete it. The money is coming from forfeiture and seizure funds and has been there all along. Why the delay?
When I was running the IT operation at the Police department I was told to stop working on surveillance cameras, there was no real interest in them, even though they were part of the Foster 40 plan.
The only plan was and probably still is to drag this out as long as possible, hope it will go away or maybe offer it up as budget cut to bury it once and for all.
More than likely the Chief will send in some sacrificial lamb who will have no real answers, no authority to change anything, no real plan, and orders not to give out any more information than he/she has too.
Look for a lot of "we are working on the details, the policy is being reviewed (they have had that for almost two years), and we are reviewing legal issues" and so on. Don't look for much substance.
The problem appears to be that the police department is really not that interested in seeing what is going on, because then they would actually have to do something about it.
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