Video surveillance cameras monitored by the police are headed for downtown Minneapolis. A gift by Target Corp. accepted Friday by the City Council would allow the installation of cameras focused on street activity and would tie them into a network at the downtown police precinct, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Police argue that it will make for a safer downtown. A video-watching cop can cover the same territory in three minutes that it might take a street cop more than half an hour to cover, Inspector Rob Allen said. The cop watching on video can gain vital information to gauge how many units are needed to deal with an incident. And the video evidence can be saved for trial.
Others are dubious. “It’s government doing it,” said Rich Neumeister, an advocate on privacy issues. He faults the council for not developing a policy to govern use of the collected data. He raises such issues as whether cameras might eventually be used to scan crowds with facial recognition technology that would allow authorities to search for child-support deadbeats, based on their driver’s license photos.
He’s not alone in his qualms. Four council members voted against accepting the Target gift. Said one of them, Gary Schiff: “A camera can’t help a little girl find her mother. A camera can’t stop a crime from happening. Cameras may protect, but they certainly don’t serve.”