Proposal For City Cameras To Keep An Eye on Crime | News

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Proposal For City Cameras To Keep An Eye on Crime
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The City Council is considering a proposal to install cameras to help cut down on First Coast crime. But some say the proposal is just a little too "big brother."

The questions: do the cameras violate your rights, and do they really cut down on crime?

Moncrief and Cleveland on the Northside is one of ten initial areas that could get crime cameras. It's an area where convenience stores are heavily guarded, and it's not unusual to see a small crowd hanging out during the day.

Dewey Duncan just moved to this area, and said he already sees the need for some extra eyes on his new neighborhood. "It will actually enhance safety," Duncan said.

Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown is behind the proposal to bring 10 video cameras to the Northside, which the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office would monitor for crime, and help identify people after they committed crimes. If the first 10 cameras work, he would want to expand the program to other high-crime areas.

"What I would say, anyone who would stands up against this, I truly believe they just don't want a safe community," Brown said. "We're not invading privacy, what we're looking for, what we're trying to deter is crime."

But Benetta Standly, director of the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Brown's camera plan is not the answer. 

"Do they have the right to be tracked by government? We say no," Standly said. "When you start invading someone's privacy, and their right to walk along the streets and be free, it really has a chilling effect on people's free speech."

The first 10 cameras would cost around $250,000. Brown wants to get that money from federal grants, and not from city taxes. There would be a cost for JSO to operate the program. It is too early to know the exact cost.

Still, there are many questions for people like Duncan, who wonder if cameras will really do the job. "It will help some, but I don't think it will cut down on all crime," he said.

On Tuesday night, council members will hear a second reading of the bill. They will vote on it in two weeks.

Lauri-Ellen Smith from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office sent us an e-mail stating, "It is very expensive technology, at this time. We are not opposed to utilizing more cameras in the future, and adding them to our existing camera inventory -- most notably the camera canopy that exists in the downtown and sports complex footprint, which has been operational since Super Bowl, and was funded with federal dollars.

"If funding was available, and the technology was cost effective, and data proved it to be an effective crime fighting tool, we would be amenable to utilizing additional cameras."

So are the cameras worth the cost? An Urban Institute study from 2007-2010 in three cities found mixed results. In Baltimore, crime dropped about 25 percent just four months after they installed cameras downtown. In Chicago, crime dropped in one major park, but stayed the same in the other. In Washington D.C., the cameras didn't seem to have an impact on crime at all.

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