Downtown update

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February 16, 2004 // UPDATED 2:55 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Downtown Security camera Web site going strong

Downtown's watchdog of the watchdogs, Ry4an Brase, has mapped 186 cameras since he launched the Minneapolis Surveillance Camera Project last spring.

Brase, who inserted the "4" into his first name to annoy SAT officials when he took over the test, launched the Web site -- www.mpls-watched.org -- to track the level of surveillance Downtown. The North Loop resident's interest was piqued when the Minneapolis City Council approved a $250,000 gift from Target Corp. in May 2003 for cameras on 1st Avenue, Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Mall.

A handful of volunteers have helped Brase scope out the cameras. Most they've found are privately owned and positioned above storefronts in the busier retail districts on Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Mall.

So far, Brase and his camera-obsessed cronies have mapped about a third of Downtown (everything west of Hennepin Avenue and Downtown's central stretch of Nicollet Mall to 8th Street). The hotspot appears to be near Block E at 6th Street and Hennepin.

Brase has counted 20 cameras at the corner.

"The thing that's startled me is that once you start looking for the cameras, they are clearly obvious and omnipresent," said Brase. "It's been driving my friends nuts lately. We'll be driving along and I'm picking out cameras, and they're like, 'Oh, yeah.' When you get your next coffee, just keep your eyes up above street level and [the cameras] are on every lamppost, every stoplight. They're really everywhere."

Besides the Target Corp. gift for "SafeZone" cameras Downtown, which are set to go live sometime this spring, Brase was inspired by the New York City Camera Surveillance Project.

"I think what startles me is how unaware everyone was, myself included, until I began this project, about how watched we are. You look at the one for Manhattan, they have 4,000. And it's just like 'wow,' but that's Manhattan, but Minneapolis, I thought we probably have two and one's watching a broken vending machine where they want to see who's stealing the Clark bars. But no, they are just everywhere here."

Brase said he's set out to gather information, not take a position on the cameras. Indeed, he acknowledges he considered buying a security camera when his home was burglarized awhile back.

The project has also taken a physical toll. "After the first week of doing this, it was just ridiculous how sore my neck was from walking around, looking up at a 45-degree angle the whole time," he said.

To see for yourself, or provide locations of Downtown cameras, visit www.mpls-watched.org.