Council again approves Downtown security cams

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July 21, 2003 // UPDATED 10:59 am - April 30, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

The City Council voted -- again -- to accept donated equipment from Target Corporation "to tie new and existing downtown security camera systems together to detect and prevent crime" Downtown.

The July 11 revote passed 9-4, but gave critics one more kick at the cameras.

The Council thought it accepted the gift June 6 on an 8-4 vote, but it was one vote short. It needs a two-thirds majority of all councilmembers, or nine of 13 votes, to accept a gift. City Councilmember Barbara Johnson (4th Ward) was absent for the June 6 vote and cast the deciding vote.

City Councilmembers Dean Zimmermann (6th Ward), Gary Schiff (9th Ward), Scott Benson (11th Ward) and Barret Lane (13th Ward) again voted no.

Zimmermann called the cameras "chilling," comparing them to the situation in George Orwell's novel "1984."

Schiff said other cities had found such cameras ineffective and costly to maintain.

In defending her decisive vote, Johnson said the city was using cameras in other public areas, such as the Midtown Greenway. Cameras had helped the city make arrests for bus assaults.

"My adult children wait for the bus every day at 7th and Nicollet," she said. "They are harassed. They have drug dealers standing there trying to sell drugs to the people who are just trying to get home from work. This camera system will help identify who the chronic offenders are in these kinds of public venues."

Ron Reier, police department spokesman, said planning for the cameras is underway, but they probably would not be in place until early next year.