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The sad saga of surveillance cameras in St. Pete continues

By on May 7, 2012

Last Thursday, Police Chief Chuck Harmon took another shot at stalling the implementation of surveillance cameras throughout the city. Lots of side-stepping, plenty of reasons why the PD wants to go slowly and a reluctant and wishy-washy commitment to have “some” cameras downtown and maybe some along 34th street.

Notice the area missing: south St. Pete, where most of the drug crime really is. Councilmember Karl Nurse, all but begging the Chief to get some video surveillance in the well-known drug house areas of his district, was pretty much ignored.

The Chief did coin a new term – “observation cameras.”

Lots of excuses like quality is not good, can’t see hand to hand transactions, etc. Well, the cameras work if the systems are designed and used properly.

Then there is the nagging question about who will actually watch the cameras. How about the light duty cops that sit in the Communication Center in the TRU unit? That would be a good use of their time.

A lot of talk about liability, worries about privacy concerns about who and how the video information will be used, but absolutely no plan.

There is a draft policy that addresses all of these issues. I know, because I wrote it. Problem is I could never get it past assistant Chief Gordon for a full review. Why? You’ll have to ask the Assistant Chief.  He was at the meeting Thursday, but never spoke.

The Chief noted the funding request to build the mobile video surveillance vehicle (maybe that’s mobile observation vehicle now) will come before City Council next meeting. That is seven months after the vehicle was acquired for free and 6 months after the preliminary design was done. And we are not stalling?  Right.

This whole idea was Mayor Foster’s — who now sits on his hands unwilling to direct the Police Chief into action. One things cops know is weakness when they see it and they’re never afraid to exploit it.

Just another Foster Day in St. Petersburg.

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