The police department has been experimenting with a public place camera at 14th and O Street, monitoring the street and sidewalks in this area. The camera (actually, it's a pair) is on a 36 hour recording loop, with the idea that this strikes a balance between the police desire to capture evidence in the event of a crime on the one hand, and the discomfort some people have with government recording them on the other hand.
While many police agencies around the world have implemented camera monitoring of some public places, often reporting significant reductions in crime, I have a little discomfort with the concept. Simply put, I am concerned over the extent to which our daily lives are being cataloged by all manner of electronic gizmos and databases. I'm not sure there is much we can do about it, since most of this is done by non-governmental entitites. Our own desire to use such things as debit cards and smartphones is apparently greater than our concern that the bank and the cell phone provider have data about where we've been as a result.
It is noteworthy that privately-owned cameras are plentiful in such places as retail stores, parking lots, shopping malls, parking garages, a growing number of apartment complexes, office buildings, and the like. It is also worth noting that government-owned cameras are also commonly operating at such places as schools, public transportation facilities, and university campuses. Private enterprise is already operating several public place cameras in the downtown area. Nevertheless, when the police decide to install cameras in public places, I think it is beneficial to do so after some public discussion, and a consideration of input from citizens. Because of this, the police department's cameras have gone dark until this discussion can take place a bit more broadly in the community.
If Lincoln is going to have any public place camera monitoring by the police, 14th and O Street is the logical choice, because it is simply the most troublesome location in the city. This is due to the density of bars and the combination of testosterone and alcohol that converges there--espeically on weekend nights as bar break approaches. So far this year, there have been 122 assaults reported to LPD that occurred within 1/2 block of the intersection--basically the effective range of the camera to potentially capture useful evidence outdoors. There is no other place in Lincoln that comes close to that concentration.
This is a good discussion to have, and I look forward to the dialog.