LINCOLN (AP) — Lincoln police have resumed operation of two security cameras that are focused on the downtown bar scene and aimed at catching criminals in the act.
Police had the cameras installed in November 2012, using more than $5,000 in seized drug money, but they shut them off a month later after concerns were raised about personal privacy. Police Chief Jim Peschong said police and city officials have spent the past year listening to privacy concerns.
The cameras, which were turned back on Thursday, will record for three days, then loop over and resume, erasing the old material, Peschong said.
Investigators won't review the recordings unless an officer or victim thinks that one or both of the cameras captured evidence of a crime. A commanding officer will have to give officers the OK to copy the recording.
Police have said the area around 14th and O Streets is a hot spot for assaults, with 110 reported in 2012 and dozens reported so far this year. Some occurred in doorways or other areas the cameras can't see.
Mayor Chris Beutler approved the two cameras and will have the final OK on the use of any more.
“Police cameras can improve safety, help deter crime and help maintain 14th and O's long tradition as a home to arts and entertainment,” Beutler said in an email sent through Rick Hoppe, his chief of staff. Nonetheless, Hoppe said, Beutler has no plans to install more cameras.
Scott Hatfield, whose Duffy's Tavern sits downtown, has criticized the cameras' installation, citing merchants' fears that the cameras would discourage customers from going downtown to shop or partake in the entertainment scene.
“I'm concerned about the impression you give about my neighborhood,” Hatfield told Peschong at an October meeting of the mayor's Citizen Police Advisory Board. “I'm also concerned about the idea that people can't come downtown to 14th and O and not be left alone by Big Brother.”
On Thursday, Hatfield said he wasn't surprised police and Beutler resumed the recordings.
“I'm hopeful that the cameras will be used to protect people in the rare instances when real violent crime happens downtown,” Hatfield said. “My hope is that they will be used appropriately, and they won't be used to try to continue to paint 14th and O as a dangerous part of town.”
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