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Columbia city council to vote on police-backed crime surveillance system


The Columbia City Council will vote on whether or not to approve the Columbia Police Department's request for a real-time crime control surveillance system throughout the city Monday night.

The surveillance system, called Fusus, would allow police to have immediate access to surveillance cameras across the city if a crime happens in the area, but not without prior permission from the owner of the camera. Fusus is used in more than 150 cities and now Columbia police want to bring it to the city, saying it will help them more efficiently crack down on crime.

Fusus would not add any more security cameras to the city but would give police access to the ones already there. The system would allow police to have immediate access to surveillance cameras in real-time to review video footage.

According to the Council, if the city moves forward and agrees, the city manager would execute an agreement with the company.

Columbia says the system would cost $315,000 and they will have a 3-year contract with Fusus that will be paid upfront with the forfeiture appropriation. By paying the contract in full upfront, the City council says it would save $60,000.

Once the contract is up (end of FY25), the program will be re-evaluated to determine if it will be renewed. If a renewal is requested, it would be included in the police budget process for FY26 at approximately $125,000 per year.

The vote could go either way, as some of the council is in support of the system and others say it has no place in Columbia.

While police believe this will help them be more efficient, some people believe it is an invasion of privacy. Columbia police Chief Geoff Jones said having to door knock to get access to people's surveillance footage is strenuous and wastes time.

On Nov. 1, CPD officers and Fusus representatives met with local business owners and community members to answer questions about the software. A week prior, Columbia's Downtown Leadership Council voted in favor of police using the software.

But not everyone is in support of Fusus. Some residents passed out a booklet labeled "The Case Against Fusus" at the last city council meeting. The booklet argues other police departments already using the system have not had it long enough to understand the impact on the community, and there is no evidence Fusus improves cities' criminal case clearance rate.

First Ward City Councilwoman Pat Fowler, and Third Ward Councilman Roy Lovelady pushed back on Fusus at several meetings, concerned about who the system will target. Fowler and Lovelady requested that CPD do outreach sessions with the community to get input and create a policy.

CPD's policy on Fusus states Columbia Police Department will not allow live streaming for cameras at individual residences. After concerns and questions from the community, the policy says access to the Fusus video platform is strictly controlled by the Columbia Police Department and authorized personnel. Authorized personnel will be required to attend initial training prior to being given access to the platform.

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Leila Mitchell

Leila is a Penn State graduate who started with KMIZ in March 2021. She studied journalism and criminal justice in college.


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