Surveillance cameras re-examined | News
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - After a series of 10 News Investigators reports into under-utilized surveillance cameras, the St. Petersburg City Council took a step Thursday toward adopting a more comprehensive strategy for the technology.
As reported in January, the cameras - in downtown parks and public areas for nearly two years - have yet to produce any tangible results. Seldom do officers even watch the feeds.
On Thursday, the Public Services & Infrastructure (PSI) committee directed city staff to start looking at costs and possible implementation of a larger surveillance program.
But the biggest debate wasn't about Big Brother or the cost; council members disagreed on whether the cameras should be in high foot-traffic areas downtown or in high-crime areas, such as 34th Street.
Councilmembers Karl Nurse and Wengay Newton said current crime-fighting approaches aren't working in parts of their districts and mobile surveillance cameras would help break up well-known pockets of drug and prostitution problems.
But councilmember Leslie Curran was one of several members to contend cameras deter crime, but may not reduce it. Curran said that cameras on 34th Street would merely shift the crime to other corridors on the city's East side, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. or 4th Street.
No decision on implementation is expected soon, but Mayor Bill Foster has said he favors the technology's use downtown, where it can help police keep extra eyes on large crowds.
He told the 10 News Investigators in January that limited funds prohibited the city from moving past its 10-camera pilot program, but the city's forfeiture and seizure fund currently boasts over $1 million. While use of the funds can be restricted, it's believed the money could be applied to camera technology.
Recently, Tampa approved the $2 million purchase for camera technology ahead of the Republican National Convention, but St. Pete officials tell 10 News that their camera systems would probably cost significantly less.