Indiana Daily Student

City council gingerly approves surveillance funding

<p>Bloomington City Council members listen to a presentation at a September meeting. The council voted unanimously to pass a proposal to fund five cameras for the downtown Bloomington area Wednesday night.</p>

Bloomington City Council members listen to a presentation at a September meeting. The council voted unanimously to pass a proposal to fund five cameras for the downtown Bloomington area Wednesday night.

Despite debate over privacy concerns at Wednesday night’s city council meeting, the council unanimously passed a proposal to commit funds toward security cameras.

All the city’s portion of the 2017 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Funds will be used to purchase security cameras for the downtown Bloomington area. Approximately five cameras will be purchased.

“The goal of the cameras is to detect crime in areas where the police department is seeing significant increases in crime,” City Attorney Michael Rouker said.

City council members raised privacy concerns about this request.

“I guess my concern is this: Is there an upper limit to the number of cameras that the police department thinks is appropriate, or do we have a reason to suspect that someday all public places will be under surveillance?” council member Stephen Volan asked.

Rouker said the primary purpose of the cameras would be investigatory. They would not be monitored at all times, but their footage will be available for review if necessary.

Council member Dave Rollo placed emphasis on the fact the cameras will be for review, will record at all times of day and can be relocated if their initial locations are not suitable.

Council member Allison Chopra asked whether the cameras would be easily visible, and Rouker said they would be.

“They’re going to be conspicuous, so how are you going to catch criminal activity?” council member Piedmont-Smith replied. “Aren’t people just going to go to where there’s not a camera and do their drug deals?”

Rouker said once more that the cameras will be used in police investigations.

“I don’t think we could be too careful about deploying surveillance,” Volan said.

Council member Jim Sims said he will be most concerned with placement of the cameras. Rouker said the placement has not been finalized, and Sims said it would be an issue if certain populations are surveilled more than others.

Despite the concerns that were raised, Piedmont-Smith and council vice-president Dorothy Granger both said there is support for this funding from their constituents. 

“Some constituents have asked for this, and it makes me a little uncomfortable how often we are watched, but we do try to listen to our constituents,” Granger said.

The council did not leave the meeting without referencing the delicate nature of this funding once more.

“It sure feels good to watch TV and to see how many crimes get solved because of surveillance cameras, but we should be afraid of a surveillance state,” Volan said.

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