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Where Will the RNC Cameras Go?

City Council wants the cameras in high-crime areas while the Mayor and Police want them in high-traffic, tourist areas.

Security cameras purchased and leftover from the RNC's "world's largest cocktail party" are going be put to use in high-traffic and tourist areas of St. Petersburg.

Mayor Bill Foster and Police Chief Chuck Harmon made the announcement to council at a Public Services and Infrastructure committee meeting on Thursday.

The news was not met positively from a few members of council who thought the cameras were going to high-crime areas in St. Petersburg. 

Council member Jeff Danner said he thought council approved the funding for the cameras with the caveat that council could determine where the cameras would go once the RNC was over. 

"I would like to explore more of these corridors that have these long-term drug and prostitution problems," Danner said. " ... "And now you are saying we don’t’ have a say." 

The city purchased the cameras for $270,000, which was reimbursed by the Department of Justice, for security for the RNC welcome party at Tropicana Field on Aug. 26. 

Foster said if council wants to place a camera in the business corridor that could work but he is not in favor of placing the cameras in residential areas. 

"I do not favor at this time, nor will I, the use of this technology in residential areas," Foster told council on Nov. 8. " ... (However) if city council decides you want one of 34th Street, we’ll find a place to put it."

Danner argued the cameras could do more good in area of high-crime because there are already cameras in the downtown area.

Chief Harmon said the camera installations have to be contracted out and that can be expensive and is a reason why surveillance cameras in neighborhoods might not work. He said the cameras are expensive to move.

"The problem I found looking at some of the neighborhood stuff, (it's) between $12,000-$15,000 to find a place put a camera, to move that thing," Harmon said. "(Then) the problem goes away in 20 days, we can’t afford another $15 grand to move the camera." 

Harmon said if placed in high-traffic areas, the cameras could end up saving the city money by requiring fewer officers to work certain areas. 

The cameras, which won't be regularly monitored in real-time, can be viewed on IPads and smartphones. Harmon said during a large event a central location can monitor the event and direct patrol on the ground, which could limit the amount of police force needed at certain event. 

Council member Karl Nurse said city could use money from the police forfeiture fund to add more cameras to the 25 left over from the RNC.

Michael McDonald, Assistant Director of Administrative Services Bureau with St. Pete Police, said a few of those 25 cameras placed for the RNC will remain in their existing location. 

Concerned Floridian November 14, 2012 at 12:44 PM
This is crazy. While you're at it, why not going further along the line of stupidity by buying drones to spy on all residents and keep us up well ranged in a nice row? St. Pete committed the folly of buying these cameras and now is following through with more absurdity ensuing. Here's a suggestion to council members who loooove the surveillance cameras so dearly: First, install them on your street and why not, facing your own private door. And let us the residents monitor YOU! Stop playing Big Brother on my dime.

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