Dear City Council,
Recently, plans for the deployment of surveillance cameras in Downtown Columbia were announced in answer to the ordinance approved by voters in the April 2010 election. According to CPD Lt. Chris Kelly, in a recent article in the Columbia Daily Tribune, the current plan is to make the cameras inconspicuous.
The ordinance reads:
Section 24-132 Sec. 24-132. Limitations on deployment and use of downtown safety cameras.
(a) Downtown safety cameras may only be deployed so as to be conspicuous and only within the boundaries of the central business district, and may be in fixed or mobile locations.
Installing inconspicuous cameras designed to blend in with the surroundings is a direct violation of the ordinance.
Another alarming aspect of the original ballot initiative and current ordinance is the use of the term “Safety Cameras.” The ballot language did not define “Safety Camera” while the ordinance attempts to. The ordinance defines “Downtown safety cameras” as “any digital recording surveillance system installed in an open and obvious manner by the City of Columbia to film public streets, sidewalks or alleys within the boundaries of the central business district.”
Equating surveillance with safety is problematic without empirical evidence that surveillance actually provides safety. While there are piles of empirical evidence indicating that surveillance cameras provide no level of safety, there is not one single shred of empirical evidence supporting the claim that surveillance cameras provide safety. The use of this language to influence voters is unforgivable. To legitimize the equating of surveillance with safety by defining it as such in our city’s code of ordinances is certainly misleading and ultimately frightening. There is no such thing as a “Safety Camera” regardless of how it is defined by our city government.
For these reasons I urge you to take immediate action to stop this egregious waste of public funds while there is still time.