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Columbia City Council discusses new surveillance camera data

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser was underwhelmed by the numbers the Columbia Police Department provided the council Monday night.

“When we start putting cameras up on streets, monitoring everyday citizens activities who are not committing crimes, and then that data goes somewhere, I get concerned,” Nauser told ABC 17 News.

The city council discussed a new report from the police department on the effectiveness and use of surveillance cameras downtown. The report lists 52 different crimes caught on camera since their installation in 2011, but only 12 arrests for those crimes. Nauser said the low arrest rate deterred her from approving any expansion of the system, as the report said would make the system more effective.

“I would rather have spent the money, and continue to have spent the money, on people – police officers getting to know the communities, getting to know what is right for the areas they patrol,” Nauser said.

Mayor Bob McDavid, a supporter of the cameras during the campaign to approve them on the April 2010 ballot, said many private businesses downtown already employ the use of surveillance. He said he would urge the Downtown Community Improvement District to restore funding to public safety. The group, made up of business owners in the area, gets its funding from a special sales tax, as well as property tax for buildings in the area. McDavid, along with Nauser and Councilman Karl Skala, agreed private surveillance, used privately, was an acceptable use of cameras.

“I choose to go into a business, and I know if I go to the jewelry store or the bank, or any place else, I would expect that,” Nauser said. “But that information is private, as it does not become a part of the public domain.”

Police Chief Ken Burton did not respond to an email from ABC 17 News Monday to discuss the report.

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